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Journey to healthy habits #2 – Learning to fail and picking up the pieces

I am sitting on my balcony, feeling very disappointed – another weekend is over. Another lazy weekend – I have missed out on cooking delicious lunch for myself nor did I get some fresh dust on my running shoes.

Thankfully I have a glas of homemade elderflower syrup to keep me company. So, based on this fact, I cannot be as lazy and unproductive as I let myself believe. Since I have conciously started working on my healthy habits last year, I have probably had more bad days than the good once. You might say, I am not fully comitted to the case – and I would probably not argue with you. Nevertheless, I have made some effort to implement healthy habits into my life. The only problem is, to stick to those plans 100% of time. So, the biggest battle I have been fighing for last nine months was learning how to fail your plan and despite that find will to go on.

There are days, or sometimes even few weeks, when I do not feel motivated to go out, neither cook for myself. So, I end up in front of a screen, watching some cheesy movies while haribos keep me company. Sometimes its chocholate – other days pringles. And the longer the period lasts, the harder is it to get back on the track. I put on the weight and it makes it harder to run. I spiral down, I skip core training, do not strech. Even a thought of next training is exhausting because I know, it will suck big times. It will be hard, so I rather stay in bed. I pity myself and look for comfort in chocolate, again. At this point, I am pretty close to rock bottom. Unfortunatelly, I have already been there too often to start fresh. However, I am not smart enough to learn from it either.

So, I have been in this vicious circle for as long as I can remember. What a shame I do not remember my childhood days – I used to be so badass [in a good way]. Sometimes I look at pictures and try to remember what it felt like to acctually run uphill. Then, after the dark period is over, there come some good days, e.g. last September, when I finished the Ring of Steel [here] and I am so proud of myself. It seems for a little while that I am on the right path. Then, I get comfortable, which is on the borderline with lazy. Sooner than I can imagine, I slip up and end up angry with the world under bett sheets among chocolate.

Despite how it might look, I am making progress. I am learning how to deal with failure. I have recently realised that if I ever learn to master that, I will be more than halfway in. So, I have resently accepted the fact that I will fail regurarly and I started working on my comebacks. There are some points, which work for me.

  1. Start immediately. I used to cry myself into sleep with thought, I will do better tomorrow. Yet, that was a mistake. It was not different in the morgning. There was no lunch prepared in the fridge and I used to suffer big times if I try to go for a run, etc. So instead of getting 10-12 hours of useless sleep (I only need like 8 hours of good sleep) hoping the world will be magically a better place next day, I get on it right away.
  2. I begin with a simple step – food. I know, its crazy. However, if I want to train, I have to fuel properly. So, I would get into kitchen and prepare some meals, snacks including nice desserts. Food is neither the punishment, nor reward. This used to be my biggest mistake. Sometimes, I would try to punish myself by not eating sweets and snacking only veggies in order to get better. So I would end up with less than 1000 Cal a day and you can imagine, what would happen to your body after few days like that. I was “starving”  myself and was more likely to fail even sooner. So, to avoid that, I start a recovery phase with preparing a balanced meal for the next few days. So, that it makes easier for me to function when I am eating good food.
  3. On the first day of recovery, I would only go for a walk – nothing hard. Again, it is not helping, if I punish myself with muscle pain on the first training. It sure is not motivating for the next day. Additionally, I would do some core straightening moves, again, just enough to feel a bit stronger and good about myself.
  4. Then I would gradually add more load and keep up the good diet.

Unfortunatelly, I have not figured out the fifth step yet – how to find a balanced daily routine? There might come a small distraction my way and I am off – e.g. long hours at work, social event (read party/date weekend), rainy weather or sore throat, etc. So I get lazy like this weekend, and am ready to go back to the step one..

All in all, as I learnt to pick up pieces, the fear of failing is not so excrutiating anymore and I do not torment myself. I rather accept the failure as a part of process, which makes it a whole lot easier. This way, I do not have to start fresh for the millonth time, because I am seriously lacking motivation to go down that road again and again. I have realised, a sudden magical change into the perfect version of myself overnight will not happen – there is no amount of new notebooks or lists which could make that happen. I can only try to slowly implement the healthy habits into my current messy life with occasional hickups on the way. Nevertheless, today is another one of recovery starts. I have put veggies into oven (with lot of cheese in between), it might be done by the time I upload this article. This way, I can go to sleep and be sure tomorrow will be a better day.

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Journey to healthy habits #1 – Counting Calories

Since I have become a real person, I have decided to start working on becoming a healty person as well. It is a working progress thing which is still going on, yet I have decided to share few toughts on the way as I am not sure how long will it take.

 

There are two major groups of people in this world.

A) those who think counting calories is ridiculous thing to do

B) those who are acctually counting them every day

Hypothetically, there should be a third group as well. It would include those few people who rely on their guts to know how much they are supposed to eat and live in balance without making conscious and obvious efforts to do so. I think everyone dreams to join their team but it is a long and complicated journey. As my guts are driven by Nutella and my instincts on eating healthy do not exist, I have recently started an experiment. I have been logging in all consumed calories throughout the day. I know what you think – I must be desperate. However, let me share few outcomes with you first and then judge me.

 

I use to be the the person laughing at the “cliché counters” and refused to join in. Nevertheless, I have lately had several conversations with different people whose opinions matter to me reagrading the topic of healty eating habits and knowing mine sucks, I have decided to do somethign about it. For starters, I am not great at keeping notes. I would buy a beautiful notebook to document things, e.g. to write a food diary. Yet, it would get tossed into the corner withing few days. Using modern technology, e.g. a food app was not crowned with success either. My problem is, I lack consistency. So, I have decided to comit to an experiment for three weeks – two weeks seemed too short to gain any results, one month seemed just undoable for me.  The aim was, to log down food I have consumed – simple overview without doing any evaluation at first. I think it was a very crucial step to do. Just eat like you usually would and understand how it looks like from a perspective of nutritional numbers. Do not make any changes yet – it is a piece of advice I did not stick to before. It is also a reason, why all my previous attemts shipwrecked. As soon as you start writing things down, you tend to make things look better – you would either start eating healtier in overnight or cheat and give up soon. Only a super hero would manage the first one. I know, each book recommends starting a food diary/counting calories to help you make smarter choices but who says, where your mistakes lie? Am I simply eating too many calories or am I eating the wrong kinds? I was lucky enough to grow up to see an example when eating chocolate and staying fit works along. So I assumed, based on my shallow observations, I just needed to do more sport to balance things out. Yet, again ist not as simple as it looks. How much is more? Do I have to something every day or is occasional hike on wekends enough? So even if you decide to lose weight by training more (it was always my aim to do so) you still have to count calories to know your Input.. I was perfectly aware of my Output, I do have a smartphone which is tracking my daily activities and I also own a sport watch as well. It is easy to do the calcualtion after an intense workout – patting yourself on shoulder after you just burnt 2500 Cal on a long ride, you believe you are entitled to refuel this with five chocolate bars. Because thats what the math says. I have been living like this for years and it would work somehow – sometimes I was not just metaphorically speaking about those five bars of chocolate. Nevertheless, I always knew deep down, it will not be enough to reach the goals in the end and a change is inevitable.

So I starting counting. I have installed the MyFitnessPal (read  more here) app on my phone, as I liked the idea of Input – Output equasion for each day. What is more, it is compatible with Strava.com I use to track my sport activities (which works with my Suunto watch 🙂 ) it was super easy for me to join in, and even if you do not understand a word from previous sentence, you can always add the activities manually. It is simple and I would highly recommend doing so. You can log in the walked distance after running errands in the city, etc. Adding food is also quite easy, you either scan the barcode or add it manually, again. If you prepare your meal yourself, you can just scan the ingredients while cooking or you put in some more effort and calculate the final numbers for the meal as well. That is, what I tried to do as I have my problems cooking meals by following recipes and the main point of the experiment was to find out what I usually eat – not to introduce new meals to my plan. So, following recipes from the forum was not an option for me. It would have been a huge change plus I like my cousine.. There was no point to cook strange meals for threee weeks just to return to the old habits in the end. Of course, I keep my mind open for new suggestions but I usually alter them in the end to put my own note on it.. It was my only rule I set up, I am not eating anything because someone says is healthy. So, I ended up creating a spreadsheet to calculate the final nutrition values of meals I have cooked. (I will upload them to the food section over time).

 

OUTCOMES

  • I have to say, it was fun. For the first time I enjoyed writing a food diary. It was very time consuming, so be prepared to invest some long hours if you decide to conduct a similiar experiment of your own.
  • You can be hungry even if you have eaten a lot (speaking in language of Calories).
  • I have realised how uneducated I am about nutrition, I have no idea what acctually those numbers on the packaging mean. It is far more complicated than just simple calories counting.
  • Within three weeks, I have had my ups and downs. Of course, I have indulged in chocolate – I am only human. However, I now understand why it happend and how to get it under control.
  • I did not take the fun out of eating and cooking, yet I will be rethinking my choices in the future – especially when it comes to the chocolate granola (I am not eating those 1200 Cal for breakfast anymore when spending a day in office chair!)
  • Those three weekes were just a beginning and I might not have become smarter but I know, what knowledge am I lacking.
  • It was a very good experience, seeing my “intuitive” choices in a different light. Some important discoveries have been made regarding what I have considered to be healthy but it acctuallly is just a nasty food packed with empty calories.
  • I am ready to start optimising.

Horryfied by some choices I have made and discovering new friends in the fridge, I have collected some good quality data. Now, the next step will be evaluating and introducing few changes. Occasional slip-ups are allowed and to make the process sustainable, it is important, to make it fun as well – so including a lot of experimenting in the kitchen and learning a great deal about nutrition are in order. In the mean time, stay tuned for updates and some delicious recipes – starting with soups, my new dinner BFFs.

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