Tagged wellness

Resolutions that roll with the punches

If you’re anything like me, you’ll scoff at the idea of making a New Year’s resolution. A lifetime of experience tells you that they never stick and they only come back to haunt you when Christmas rolls around again.

And experts tend to agree. According to many, New Year’s Resolutions are so last decade. Apparently it is the worst time to declare lifestyle changes and there’s a very slim chance that you’ll be high fiving yourself come December 31st. The New Year is amidst celebrations, frivolity and for us here in Australia, weather that calls for beach side holidays, alcoholic drinks, BBQ gatherings and icecream. It’s hardly a breeding ground for spectacular transformations.

But despite all of this, as I flip the crisp new page of the carefully chosen calendar, I find it hard not to reflect on the past 12 months and contemplate what might be possible in the year to come. Is it ingrained in us, or is there something in the cosmos that makes us want to seek out personal improvements when a new year clicks over?

What’s possibly the limiting factor in New Year’s Resolutions is they are generally a statement of declaration: “I’m going to lose weight!” “I’m going to be more organised!” “I am going to give up alcohol!” “I am going to start running!” There’s plenty of enthusiasm, but very little planning bolstering up our resolutions.

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Despite a worthy protest, if you feel the gravitational pull towards implementing some new year changes, there are some things you can do to make your success a little more likely.

1. BE SMART ABOUT IT. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and have a time frame. Replace “I am going to lose weight” with “I am going to lose 5kg by September.” Replace “I am going to start running” to “I am going to run in a 10km event in August”. You can even make us your own system of scale, for example “At the moment, on a scale of 1-10 on how healthy I feel, I am a 5. By the end of June this year, I am going to be at 8.”

2. CHANGE YOUR FOCUS FROM WHAT YOU WANT, TO WHAT YOU NEED TO BE DOING. Once you have your SMART goal, it’s time to carefully consider what actions you will need to be doing consistently to achieve that goal. The person that says “I am going to run a half marathon in June” may need to invest in some new runners, start going to bed earlier to make early morning training possible and set aside some time to run 3-4 times a week. Change is the result of a series of new behaviours done consistently, so make your behaviour the focus, rather than the overall goal.

3. GO AS BIG OR AS SMALL AS YOU CAN MANAGE. It’s an old cliché, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take one step at a time and appreciate that each of those steps are entirely customised to you; what fits your lifestyle and what you can physically, mentally and emotionally manage. If your SMART goal is to lose weight, and the changes you need to be doing consistently involve reducing portion sizes, it might start with simply reducing the size of one meal, one day a week. Once you feel that you are doing that fairly effortlessly you might move to two meals, two days of the week. Don’t let this step be dictated by impatience or pressure. It’s vital to long term success that each step is integrated gradually and easily into your lifestyle. The downfall of most New Year’s Resolutions is that people go too hard too soon!

4. OBSERVE, DON’T JUDGE. As Thomas Edison said “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If one week doesn’t go to plan – you miss a run, you overeat, you relax on a Monday night with a scotch, just make an observation about what lead you to that point. Rather than throw your hands up in the air (like you just don’t care) and rubber stamp it failure all over it, simply think about how you can adjust your ultimate goal, your behaviours or your environment to make it work. Like Thomas Edison, it could take thousands of attempts and you’ll learn a little bit about yourself each time.

5. KEEP YOUR RESOLUTIONS ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES. Life happens. We get busy. We get thrown curve balls. We lose our way. Our priorities change. Revisiting your goal and being willing to adjust it (and the required behaviours) if it no longer fits within the realms of realistic or achievable, is totally ok. It’s far better to keep moulding it around life, than sidelining it altogether.

Whether it is habit or something in the universe that pulls us towards change around January – make your resolutions SMART, support them with small changes in your behaviour and when things don’t go to plan, adjust the plan; and I expect there will be high fives rather than haunts by the time December arrives again.

6 things I have learnt since giving up my scales

Hi. My name is Naomi and I am a scaleoholic. I have been scale free for 17 days.

I am not sure when the fascination with weighing myself began. I can always remember having scales on the bathroom floor when I lived with my parents. I can remember (with complete horror and panic) having to be weighed at secondary school for fitness testing. So I guess it was only natural that as an adult, I equipped our house with a set of digital body weight scales.

Despite putting my scales in a different bathroom and understanding that it wasn’t necessary or conducive to my health, weighing myself somehow became a daily ritual. I couldn’t start the day without seeing the magic depressing number.

Seeing some alarm bells late last year, made me resolve (for New Years – how original) to only weigh myself monthly. That (as New Year’s resolutions tend to do) crept back to weekly and then almost back to a daily occurrence.

Regardless of if it was daily, monthly or just randomly, the result of the scales had the power to change my entire day (I always weighed myself in the morning. Habitual weighers always do mornings right?). My mood, meal plans, clothing choices, exercise efforts, confidence at work and the way I treated my 2 children was all tied up in the number that came flashing up. And it was rarely a positive outcome.

A friend suggested I ditch the scales. Smash them! Throw them out! Get rid of them! I nodded my head, I roar-roar-roared! I took charge and agreed that I would! Next week.

Eventually, the pressure of the scales got too much for me. I hated weighing myself but I hated not knowing what I weighed. I would stand butt naked at the scales (and in front of a mirror – awesome confidence booster for the day) and ask myself if I was strong enough to see the number today. I would answer yes. Then I would step on the scales. I would see “the number”.

Cue: World. Crashing. Down.

I wasn’t strong enough after all.

I’d pick myself up, get through the day, vowing to eat better, move more… get that number down. And like Groundhog Day, it would all happen at 8am again the next morning.

World. Crashing. Down. Day after day after day.girl sit wait

So, finally, I did it. I got rid of them.

Instantly I felt lighter. I felt empowered. I felt free.

But the next week I felt lost. Like a junkie, I needed a “hit”. I found myself seeking out scales in the pharmacy. I wondered if it would be weird to visit my friends and ask if I could use their scales to weigh myself. I mentally compiled a list of possible reasons I could go to the doctor and get weighed there.

Now at week three, I am reflective on what I have learnt about myself, without my “insecurity blanket” so to speak.

I have learnt:

No single food is responsible for my weight.

I used to jump on the scales and if the number had increased by any small amount (or even just stayed the same) it must have been the extra slice of cheese I had, or maybe the big handful of goji berries. Or possibly, the two freddo frogs (gasp!). This then lead onto a constant battle with the enemy-food: a love-hate relationship; a binge-guilt affair; doom.

Since ditching the scales I don’t blame any particular food for how I feel. Some foods, over an extended period of time or eaten in excess will make me heavier. But I have days where I just eat a little mindlessly and I don’t feel great for it. It feels much gentler to remind myself how overeating any food makes me feel, rather than what “number” it equates to.

We are governed by numbers

Imagine a world without numbers. A world where we just bought clothes for how they looked and felt. Imagine getting up when we felt recharged, going to bed when we felt tired. Imagine eating when we just felt hungry. Imagine running at a pace that just felt good and continued for as long as you felt good for. Imagine your age being measured by the state of your health. Image trading goods in return for other goods so both parties felt they were on the receiving end of a fair deal. Even imagine driving the car at a speed that just felt safe and courteous to other drivers. How old would you be if you didn’t know your age?

How comfortable would you be buying jeans if you didn’t have to consider the size? How heavy would you feel if you didn’t know how much you weighed?

We have forgotten to FEEL. Our society is governed by numbers. True, we can’t banish some of them. But some of them we can place less importance on. And the number we represent in weight, is one of them. It feels incredibly light and delicious to not have to think about that extra number in my day.

I have great skin

If I had just weighed myself I would look in the mirror and see “the number”. As I got dressed into my clothes I would see “the number”. I would eat my food throughout the day and see “the number”. In the middle of discussions with friends, I would see “the number”.

The greyscale of “the number” in front of my eyes blurred my ability to see any other good in myself.

Since ditching the scales, I can see the good in myself a little clearer. Turns out, I have pretty good skin.

Fat days happen

I could have eaten “right” for a few days, done a stack of exercise and been feeling trim and fab and ready to don those skinny jeans for the day.

Then I would weigh myself.

And my “skinny” day would plummet to a “fat” day. I’d pack away the skinny jeans and pull on the sloppy joes. I’d dress how the scales had made me feel.

Without scales, I still have fat days and I have days where I am not. I deal with the fat days (and attribute them to tiredness, time of the month, the weather… could be anything!). And I embrace the “not feeling fat” days. Ain’t no number on a scale going to take that away from me!

I feel good.

After 8 days without my scales, a close friend said to me “You are looking good!  Are you feeling good?” My response: “I don’t know. I have gotten rid of my scales.”

I realised what I had said instantly. I didn’t know how I felt without knowing what I weighed.

What tha?

Now my response would be different. I. FEEL. GOOD.

My kids are right.

My mum had body issues. She often told my sister and I that she thought she was fat, frumpy and unfashionable. She compared herself to other mums. I never thought my mum was fat. In fact, if she believed in herself a little more, she really could have been quite banging (and I am not sure why I am talking about her in past tense…. She is still very much alive and quite frankly could still be banging, but the low confidence she has in herself is a tough cookie to shake). But I started to believe her. I started to believe she was fat. And I guess I started to believe that she represented fat.

So as I grew from a girl to a woman of a similar build, of course I saw myself as: fat.

Now that I am a mother myself, my kids tell me that I’m not fat (and it should be noted I am very careful about shaming myself around them and stopped weighing myself in front of them long ago, but somehow it still comes up). My kids tell me I have a wobbly belly (I really do). But they also tell me that I am beautiful and strong.

With the scales aside, the self-hatred is fading and I can start listening to my kids.

Do you have an obsession with weighing yourself? Do you feel like it is something you could live without?

 

Ed Note: This article was written over 12 months ago. While I still don’t weigh myself, I have at times found myself drawn to a set of scales at a relative’s house or the gym. Thinking I am now immune to weigh in results, I have used them. But, apparently, I’m not. The struggle is real people.

Put down the bun and put your hands behind your back.

I trawl through a fair few facebook pages relating diet/nutrition/health/wellbeing. I consider it as part of my ongoing professional development procrastination research. Well, that’s how I justify it when my husband seems confused as to why the ironing hasn’t been done or the breakfast dishes are still in the sink at 5pm.

Such pages can inform me, educate me and give me food for thought (pardon the pun). But I am always selective about the info and like Wikipedia; don’t take it all as gospel.

Good quality articles written by qualified professionals I usually file under the educational banner. I take the time to read those articles in detail and then follow and contribute to the comments with interest. It fuels my fascination in all things health and fitness.

The ones written by the not-so-qualified individuals, I generally just jump to the comments and see where the discussion is headed. The comments fuel my fascination in human behaviour.

Let’s face it, Facebook has become a massive medium for information gathering and sharing and there is a truckload of pages out there dedicated to diets. If you want to catch what I am throwing, type “paleo” into your Facebook search function (top left hand side) then hit the “show more results” button at the bottom of the initial suggestions. You’ll be presented with an extensive list for everything paleo; paleo mums, paleo recipes, paleo cafes etc etc etc. Do the same for “sugar”. And the same again for 5:2, gluten free, protein, low carb and Atkins (sadly, showing its age through significantly less worshiping pages).

Amongst all of these diet-shrines, there is almost always someone, from somewhere in the world asking: “am I allowed to eat X on this diet?”man eating donut

I have some news for you. Whatever diet you are on, wherever you are in the world, whichever page you are following, the answer is YES, you are allowed to eat it.

Going Paleo? And want to eat a slice of sourdough bread? Yes. I can almost, with 99% certainty (I won’t say 100% because his tanned skin and overwhelmingly sparkly eyes could indeed be magical) guarantee that Paleo Ambassador Pete Evans is not going to jump out of the pantry and donk you over the head with caveman club for breaking Paleo law.

Quitting sugar and want to know if you are allowed to have honey? Yes. I’m pretty sure that green-short clad Sarah Wilson is not going to piff jars of Rice Malt Syrup at you over the breakfast counter.

Going 5:2 and wondering if you are allowed to eat ice-cream on your 2 day? Yes. (Now I’m stumped… I have no idea who to attach to the 5:2 thing to. Note to self: more Facebook “research” required).

Regardless of what diet you are following (and just for the record I think “the best diet is the one you don’t know you are on” Brian Wansink, Ph.D. 2006) you are allowed to eat whatever the hell you damn well want. Unless you want to eat human beings, crystal meth or the neighbour’s cat, there are no police; there are no convictions, no fines, and no jail or death sentences.

Diets. Are. Not. Laws.

Sure, shop around and see if there is something out there that seems to sit right with you. I think paleo, sugar quitting, 5:2, low carb, high protein all have components worth integrating into our lifestyles, but when we start to roadblock ourselves with rules we fall into danger territory.

You can zip a long for quite a while being ok with the fact that bread or chocolate or honey is not “allowed” but eventually (and this is backed up by stats – 95% of people who go on restrictive diets don’t succeed long term) you’re likely to rebel. And then you’ll love the feeling of being able to make your own choice again. And then, abuzz with new found freedom you’ll eat everything from the “forbidden list” (quite possibly in one sitting), and all of a sudden the weight is back on and it’s often paid back with interest.

Just like my six year old hates it when I tell her what she can and can’t eat, fundamentally, so do most adults.

Here’s something to consider: Make your own decisions about food (gasp!). Not based on rules. Not because some airbrushed celebrity making a nice buck out of your vulnerability said so. Make your food decisions based on hunger, happiness and circumstances.

If you understand why you are choosing to eat whatever it is you want eat and you understand the outcomes of that choice (i.e. is it getting your closer or further away from your goal) then you are entirely in control. You don’t even need to ask a Facebook page for permission.