Sometimes things don’t go to plan, as I found out as I put to one side my aims in my ‘making progress’ series.
It seems a bit early to say it – I’m only at the end of week one! – but I’m already behind in my ambitious list of actions to improve the way I do things, to make life simpler and less frustrating, and to enjoy life more because I feel healthier and more able to connect with others.
However – I wasn’t counting on coming down with chicken pox when I put together my schedule. Luckily, I had a very mild dose, by the time I went to the doctor to find out why my ‘mosquito bites’ were taking so long to heal (odd to get them so close to winter, and in such strange places, too – hmmm), I was no longer contagious. The main issue was the tiredness, which I tried to address by extra sleep during the day (and some time off work), and now my sleep patterns are a little out of wack. Last night still awake at 1.30am – not ideal. Still, things will get on track.
Although I didn’t start on improving my diet when I aimed to (because, frankly, I was wiped out and couldn’t be bothered), it was a helpful reminder of the purpose of goals.
In most cases, goals are somewhat arbitrary.
And so for me, starting to eat more healthily (which was the first area to tackle), is part of a bigger plan to become healthier. So, in this case, if I start a week late, or take longer than I had planned, that’s ok – I’m still making some progress towards better health.
So – with all that, let’s just consider this a delayed start? Yes? Great – all good then!
According to my schedule, Food is the focus for this week. Yay.
I have some good habits that I want to keep. These include
- My green smoothie for breakfast, which I’ve been making each morning for the last six months, having finally found a combination that I like the taste of, includes quite a lot of green veggies (and a bit of protein courtesy of some greek yoghurt and chia seeds) and therefore keeps me going most of the morning.
- Complementing this is my morning wake-up routine – a short run (about 15-20 mins) most mornings. It’s not a long distance, but I’m trying to develop a pattern of exercise for getting my muscles (and me) to wake up in the morning. On the days when my husband has already left, I am trying (less successfully) to do exercises at home (I use various routines from fitness blender or the 7 minute app). And, while I’ve been less consistent that I have been with breakfast, I’ve restarted this over the past couple of days (now I can no longer use chicken pox as an excuse), and it does make a difference.
Where I fall down is lunch and snacks.
And I did, again, today. Partly because I was tired and lacking motivation. Partly because I was disorganised (and therefore leftover pasta, without any extra veggies, did seem like a good idea. As did that diet coke which kept me awake through the afternoon at work). They weren’t, actually, great ideas. However, I’ll try again tomorrow (my meal is ready, so that should help with the temptations).
Key guiding and organising principles
I find there has been so much written about what to eat, when and why. And it’s easy to either get confused by the conflicting advice or distracted by the complicated approaches.
What to Eat
Let’s not make it too complicated, ok? I think it comes down to two main aspects:
- You can’t cut back when you’re already depleted – you need to build the good back in.
It’s better for me to start with making sure I eat some good food for lunch (adding more vegetables, more good fats, not too much too much starchy food and some more protein particularly lean meat), than to focus on NOT eating that chocolate (or afternoon tea, or going for seconds). Over time, I will have more resilience to food and drink that don’t add value (plus, I’ll be too full to fit them in). And, again, at least I’ll be better in terms of nutrition.
I read this somewhere and it stuck (but unfortunately not the name of the author. If I remember I’ll add, because he had some really good points. Anyway).
2. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants
Yes, the seven word message from Michael Pollan which is referenced often, for good reason. If I am ever in doubt about what to eat, this simple sentence reminds me that it doesn’t need to be that complicated. The only aspect that warrants much further thought is what is real ‘food’ (put simply, not overly processed and with artificial ingredients). The rest is a reminder – don’t eat so much!
How to Eat
HOW is harder – it involves planning ahead, and dealing with the discomfort of changing patterns.
In this step, which I am still working out some systems and avoidance elements, some key principles will be:
- Factoring in the steps in meal preparation.
I think there are at least four steps in preparing a meal:
- Menu planning (deciding what to make);
- Buying (or, if you’re super good, growing, I guess), the ingredients;
- Preparation (which my husband, having taken a liking to Anthony Boudain, and being a bit of a handy cook himself – as well as harking back to our french holiday a couple of years ago – calls ‘mise-en-place‘, or ‘getting the meez done’); and
- Cooking (finally!) – which might be tossing the ingredients together, or mixing together and putting in the oven / barbeque / slow cooker, whatever.
Yes, that’s FOUR steps.
And I find the first three steps annoying. Which means I only enjoy the final stage (I always leave the first three until the last minute, am rushing to buy ingredients with half an idea in mind, and then rush to chop everything up). No wonder I stumble!
If I’m going to eat better, when I’m the one cooking, I need to work out some processes that make steps one to three smoother (I can’t get takeaway for every meal, so I’m going to have to suck this up). Time to be adult about being organised.
2. Dealing with the fact that not everyone will love everything I cook.
I’ve been stuck in a world of starchy meals because that’s what the kids will eat. And not squabbling over meals makes meal times happier.
But it’s not doing me any favours in terms of energy levels. So, I’ll try and make things as kid friendly as I can, but they’ll have to start expanding their taste buds, just a little – and we’ll adapt their meals a bit (they can have bread with a filling soup, for instance – whereas my husband and I might have it without). I’ll stand tougher in terms of the whinging and they will grow to like it (surely they will??) Anyway, it’s for our own good.
3. Managing the discomfort
- I know I will look towards meals and think ‘I’d rather have something else‘ as I slowly change my taste buds from what they’ve been used to craving
- I know I will be, from time to time, have to resist – eating because I’m bored, because it’s there, because everyone else is … and that won’t be easy.
- I know I’ll finish eating and think ‘I feel like a little something more’ (but not, incidentally, supersized M&Ms, which I tried today so you didn’t have to. My suggestion is to stick to the originals. Consider it my community service. It’s my pleasure).
- I know I’ll get bored / feel tired / feel grumpy at the kids for complaining (and then start thinking ‘in MY day, we ate what we were given, blah, blah, blah’ And then feel grumpy at myself. Because I’ve been there).
But those stages I’ll need to work through.
This week, I’m focusing on trying to add in more of the good (focusing on doing the ‘what’) and identifying the barriers with the ‘hows’. Systems, here we come!
I will be making changes slowly. Trying new things and seeing which ones stick.
I also know that, while initially meals (and in between) will be harder, hopefully, progressively, I will feel better for it. And that should help me to stick to it. Hopefully!
- Want to know more about ‘mise-en-place‘ (and sound sophisticated in the process?) Here is Anthony Bourdain’s explanation (note – if you haven’t come across him before, he doesn’t mince words). Good tips for other aspects of life, too.
- If you haven’t read Michael Pollan’s In Defence of Food, well – you should. Good, common sense (and if you are someone who likes rules that are more complicated than a saying of seven words, he’s created that too, see here).
- This list of slow cooker meals has been doing the rounds (and it includes all the prep steps so you can jump straight to step 4 – yay!)
- As a great reminder to not rush into everything at once, have a look at the blog Small change, especially this post about making soup (and you’ll find lots of other good ideas on the blog, too)
- Finally – I’m looking to put in place some of these sleeping tips (it’s great when you find out your brother in law has a blog too!) Addressing my food habits will take a bit of focus, so I’m not launching into major changes with sleep quite yet, but it’s clearly something I need to address. See link to Sleepy Habits