No sugar update – day 29

Today is Day 29 of my 30-day reset of not eating sugary snacks and treats. It’s gone surprisingly well.

When I started my mission get back into my no sugar lifestyle, I imagined that I’d slowly cut out one day’s treat over a period of several weeks and that by the end of it I’d be back on track. My first steps were to make sure I had something else to eat in place of my Monday afternoon snack, to remove any cash from my wallet that might make it easy to buy something I didn’t want, should I accidentally wander into a bakery or coffee shop.

After a couple of weeks of this I found that, even on the days I was allowed to have an unhealthy snack, I didn’t want to, so the 30-day reset began. In contrast to previous attempts at this, I’ve found the last 29 days to be quite easy and I haven’t really missed the cakes and chocolate.

I wondered why this was, because in the past it’s been really hard and I’ve struggled.

I think that because I’ve had several long periods where I haven’t eaten sugar, my body knows that this is my “normal”, so once I made the decision to go back to this and started to not eat cakes and chocolate, my body accepted it quite easily. I guess it knows that I am someone who doesn’t eat refined sugar, which is exactly the person I want to be.

I know some people think that cutting out something is a bit extreme and that most things in moderation are okay. The theory goes that if you completely deny yourself something, you’ll feel like you’re missing out and you’ll end up binging on the [forbidden thing], which would be worse for you than allowing yourself to have it occasionally.

Gretchen Rubin discusses this in Better Than Before. She says that some people do better by completely abstaining, because they find this easier than having the [forbidden thing] in moderation – for “abstainers”, having just a bit is almost impossible. Once they have opened the biscuit packet they’ll eat the whole lot. They won’t have one, and put the packet away until tomorrow.

As an abstainer herself, Ms Rubin notes that when abstainers deprive themselves of the [forbidden thing], they “conserve energy and will-power because there are no decisions to make and no self-control to muster”. They don’t have to decide whether to have (or do) the thing, then decide how much of the thing they will have (or do) and finally make themselves stop consuming (or doing) the thing. The decision is already made, and they can go on with their day.

She notes that someone can be an abstainer in relation to some things, but can be a “moderator” – someone for whom “everything in moderation” works well – for others. I might be an abstainer in relation to sugar, but a moderator in relation to alcohol, for example. So I’ll eat the whole block of chocolate, but I can have one glass of wine at lunch time and not spend the rest of the afternoon drinking. Unless I make a conscious choice to.

Ms Rubin notes that successful habit changes involve coordinating multiple strategies, and she gives an example of how she combined abstaining with other strategies to change her eating habits. For me, I can see how I have combined the strategy of abstaining (from sugar) with the strategy of identity (I am a person who doesn’t eat sugar) to change this particular habit. (I mentioned this strategy in this post.)

So this was an easy 30-day challenge for me – but it was only easy because of earlier work I’d done. I imagine that I’ll have more slip-ups in the future, but I hope that this experience of quite easily falling back into a healthy pattern will mean that the slip-ups aren’t frequent and aren’t as long-lived as this one was.

And here’s an unrelated picture of one of my chickens, as I contemplate what my next 30-day challenge will be.

20170701 Chook

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Challenge 5: Overview

This challenge (30 Days of Fixing What Bugs You) hasn’t really been great in terms of things I’ve actually been able to write about. I haven’t kept much of a record of what I’ve done. I feel like maybe it was a bit abstract to take this on for 30 days, because doing something depended on something happening that I had to react to. So, with some notable exceptions, most things that have annoyed me have been little blips that I struggled to remember at the end of the day.

Having said that, I think “fix what bugs you” is a really great philosophy to subscribe to. It’s certainly better than complaining about something that either I can fix or I can’t do anything about (or I could fix with a bit of effort but can’t be bothered, so I’ll just sit here and whinge about it thank you very much).

I have taken some small proactive steps in one area of my life that I’m pleased with, and some of that has spilled a bit over into Challenge 6 (Clarity), so I might say more about that later on.

30 Days of No Complaining should have ended on about 14 September, so I could start challenge 7 on the 15th, but last week was a big week and I had other things that were more important. Challenge 7 will start tomorrow, and this will be something practical that I can do every day and measure.

Tonight we had our final yoga class for the term, and won’t be restarting until mid-October. Last term I had good intentions to do some yoga over the holidays, but we went away and it didn’t happen. When we went back to class this term, I really felt like I hadn’t done any yoga for three weeks. It wasn’t good. I want to keep it up this time, so I’ve decided to exchange my morning walks for morning yoga (and reduce my daily step goal to 12,000 during this time). This is something I’ll be much more able to keep track of, and it shouldn’t add any extra time requirement into my day, which means (in theory) I should be able to incorporate it into my morning routine fairly easily.

And finally, here’s something I learned last week. Remember when I wore the bright pink lacy leggings to work as “something I wouldn’t normally wear” as past of the #yearoffear challenge and no one noticed?20160912-yellow-leggings-attract-more-comments-ig Change “bright pink” for “yellow” and everyone notices!

Fix what bugs you – week 1

It’s week 1 of my “fix what bugs you” challenge. The aim of this challenge is to work within my “circle of influence” for an entire month and not to let myself get irritated or bugged about things I have no control over. If something that I can do something about is bugging me, then either fix it right away, or put a plan into place to get it fixed if it’s not something I can do immediately.

Day 1: This was a great day. Nothing really bugged me at all. I realised that my wish to be exposed to different things at work, which I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, is actually gradually being met, only not in the way I’d thought when I asked for this to happen. So I’m learning new stuff, finding out about different processes and discovering new areas of my workplace I didn’t even know existed. Yay.

Day 2: Today started out tough. Normally Tuesdays I work at home in the morning, and I have the afternoon off to do my own thing, cook a massive curry, work on my blog and catch up on niggling little jobs that would otherwise get missed, as well as prepare for my radio show. I had my (scary #yearoffear) appointment at the accountant booked, and I spent last night pulling out all my receipts and documents. I was as ready for this as I was going to be.

Then Slabs woke up feeling terribly ill and wasn’t able to go to work, so I had to take Kramstable to school. This means leaving earlier than normal, no time to set up the slow cooker, and, after picking him up from school, not enough time when we get home to cook something than is normally his and my lunch for the rest of the week. Not to mention having to reschedule my accountant appointment and not do any of the other activities I’d planned to do today.

In the morning I thought that it would have been very easy to complain, because Tuesday afternoon is *my* time, and I’m always disappointed when I lose it. But. There’s nothing I can do about it. People get sick and it’s more important that Slabs get some rest and see the doctor, so I just have to suck it up. I’d had a lovely day the day before, and nothing can take that away. And, I thought, maybe I’d get an opportunity that I wouldn’t have got if I’d been at home, so I decided to keep an open mind.

By the end of the day I felt rather differently. My shoulders were aching fiercely after 90 minutes of carrying what I didn’t think was such a heavy backpack and bag but turns out it was. One shoulder looks swollen and is really tight. I need to rethink what I carry on days like this. Fix what bugs you.

Kramstable and I caught the early bus home, which I never like, but today seemed to be worse than normal for conversations that it was impossible to tune out. I was trying not to complain about it, and telling myself I was grateful for there being a bus so I didn’t have to drive; I was grateful there were meals in the freezer so I didn’t have to stress about cooking, telling myself to breathe, focus on the breath, but still the voices got into my head, and I got home feeling thoroughly miserable, sore and headachy, and behind on everything I’d hoped to get done.

I know. First world problems. Fix what bugs you. Headphones next time.

Tomorrow will be better.

Day 3: It was. Nothing to complain about. Nothing to fix.

Day 4: Oh my god. Kramstable was sick and Slabs stayed home with him. There was a good chance he’d be sick the next day too, and it would be my turn to stay home, so everything I’d planned to do then had to be done today. Specifically go to [redacted] to get materials for Kramstable’s Book Week costume.

You know the place I mean. The place where there is no such thing as ducking* in to pick up a couple of things. Because you wait in line for hours. No matter what time of day it is. Today was no exception. As the line built up behind me, the sole person on the counter was in a huge discussion with a customer about this very expensive fabric they wanted to buy, without a pattern, and what were they going to do, and no there wouldn’t be enough to do that . . . And all the while, several other staff members kept walking past the growing line, putting stuff on shelves, and doing god knows what.

It was all too much for me. I was quietly fuming. And complaining on Twitter. And fuming some more. Was this situation within my control? No. Could I do anything to fix it? Not unless I got my supplies from somewhere else, which isn’t really doable. They had me captive.

It only occurred to me much later that Arianna Huffington had written exactly of this situation in her book Thrive, which I’ve just read. She quoted a book called Mindful London by Tessa Watt, who recommends that you use this type of situation as a chance to slow down and practice mindfulness. To pause, to take in what’s around you (in this case a line of annoyed customers), to breathe. Next time I go in there I’m taking a book to read in line. So there. While I didn’t fix it this time, I have a plan to fix it next time.

Day 5: Kramstable was still sick so I was at home with him. I didn’t do much. Nothing really jumped out at me as bugging me. Other than my overflowing freezer. I added “do a freezer clean out” to my to-do list.

Day 6: Today. I noticed myself getting irritated by a couple of things but I didn’t do anything about them. Maybe I should.

I think after (almost) a week of doing this challenge, I’m noticing the times I’m complaining more than I used to, and at least trying to think of ways to make the situation better, even if it’s just a learning for next time. That seems like a good result for now.

So cheers!

20160819 Original Soured Ale IG

* Kudos to my Mac for autocorrecting “ducking” in this post to “fucking”. It’s usually the other way around. It’s learning.

Challenge 5: Fix what bugs you

This challenge has its origin in several places.

I’ve been reading Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in which he talks of the circle of concern (which is everything we care about) and the circle of influence (which is everything we have control over or influence on). He recommends undertaking a 30-day proactivity challenge, where you work only in your circle of influence, on things you have control over, rather than getting caught up on things that concern you but which you can’t do anything about.

Along the same lines, a recent email challenge over at Hey Kendra was to go for 24 hours without complaining. Kendra says that while complaining has some rewards, (because it feels good to vent and can help us bond with other people who have the same complaints), it has downsides if you do it a lot. For example, you look like someone who isn’t in control of their life; people can get sick of you if you complain a lot and you can attract other complainers into your life. Kendra puts it like this: “we have perfected the art of fine whining”.

This is something I’d already started to focus on, because I started thinking that, unless other people have the same issue as I have, they really aren’t interested in the little things I complain about.

I committed to not complaining for 24 hours for Kendra’s challenge, and didn’t even last half a day! Some things (that are totally outside my circle of influence) really push my buttons. But on reflection, they aren’t worth the energy it takes to complain about them.

Kendra says the challenge is to focus on solutions – and if you have nothing positive to say, say nothing. And this leads us to the final piece of the puzzle that is Challenge 5 in my year of #steppingonthecracks.

This came from a recent podcast from Asian Efficiency, with Paul Akers from which I got the big takeaway “fix what bugs you”. This could possibly be the best advice I’ve heard all year.

Putting all of this together, my next 30 day challenge is: If there’s something that’s pissing me off to first ask myself if there’s anything I can do about it. If not – let it go.

If yes – fix it. It probably takes as much energy to fix a niggling little problem as it does to whinge about it, and the difference is that fixing it means it’s no longer a problem, whereas whinging about it has used the same energy and the problem still exists.

If it’s not something I can fix straight away (the two-minute rule might be useful here – if it can be done in under two minutes, do it right away, don’t leave it), at least make an action plan to get onto fixing it.

Example: Last week I was in the kitchen and the bin liner had come away from the sides of the bin and was making it difficult to put stuff in the bin. You know, when you dump something heavy in the bin first up and it pulls the whole thing down.

Other person, looking at the bin: “That bin liner isn’t very useful like that”.

Me: *Pulls out the bin and straightens up the bin liner.* *Gives self gold star for fixing instead of pointing it out and doing nothing.*

This is the kind of stuff I’m talking about.

I’ll have to be very careful on Twitter, since that’s where most of my complaints are aired. If you catch me complaining in the next 30 days without having a plan to fix the issue, feel free to call me out on it! #fixwhatbugsyou

My goal will be to find at least one thing each day that I might have complained about and fixed instead.

And in case I felt inclined to complain about the weather, a reminder that spring is coming:

20160812 Pretty at St David's Park

 

Evening routines: day 29

The evening routine challenge is just about over. Here’s Day 5 of the Asian Efficiency evening routine challenge. It addresses a key issue that your routine needs to help you stick to it: Your why.

One of the reasons a lot of habits don’t stick is because you don’t have a clear reason for why you want to cultivate the habit, so there isn’t a real incentive to do it.

In the post Zachary asks:

Why is it so important that this evening ritual is strong? How does making the small, smart consistent choice to get the rest you need give you more of what you want out of life? More health. More abundance. More opportunity. More gratitude. More growth. More learning. More fun. More service. More romance.

More of you.

 

I realised that part of the reason I wasn’t very good at sticking to my evening routine and bedtime was that, along with it not being very structured, I wasn’t being very clear on why I needed to do it.

“I should go to bed earlier because I’ll be tired in the morning, oh but I can’t be bothered, screw it, I’ll have another glass of wine…. Oh shit it’s midnight and I’ve just sat on the couch all evening and done nothing.”

Very non-comittal.

This has gradually turned into an 11-step routine that starts at 9.20 and gets me into bed before 10.00pm.

But why?

Because I need to get enough sleep to function the next day, and I need to wake up early to get three of my most important things done before my day starts: meditate, move, create. I now look forward to getting up early to do these things, and most nights I look forward to going to bed several hours earlier than I used to.

On Tuesday night, I didn’t do the routine (mainly because I was filling in my paper Census form and watching the drama of #censusfail unfold on Twitter) and I felt very out of sorts as a result. I struggled getting to sleep that night, and I put this mostly down to the fact that I didn’t stick to my routine and specifically that I was on my devices right up to the time I went to bed. Either that or it’s a mighty big coincidence that it was the first time in ages I’ve had trouble sleeping.

So there’s my why; the final part of my evening routine, which ties it all together. In the Asian Efficency post, Zach suggests that once you’ve done this to:

“Set a calendar reminder to review what you wrote in a couple of weeks. Re-read and revise your “why” whenever you feel your motivation or execution slipping.

 

I think that’s a good idea.

Evening routines (Challenge 3): Day 24

The evening routine challenge is going well. Moving on with it, Day 4 of the Asian Efficiency Evening Routine Challenge is to make improvements to your sleep environment to help you get a better night’s sleep when you do get to bed.

There are a tonne of resources out there on how to get to sleep and stay asleep. I’ve had problems in the past, but right now I only rarely have trouble getting to sleep, so I’m very grateful for this.

Some of the common suggestions I’ve already written about in this series, such as having a set bedtime every night, putting a wind-down routine in place and dimming the lights around the house (easier said than done when you live with other people who stay up later than you do).

Other recommendations include:

Getting all devices out of your bedroom – including phones, TVs and e-readers, not only for the blue light that keeps your brain stimulated, but also because they are too easy to pick up and distract yourself with instead of going to sleep.

I once heard Arianna Huffington (founder of the Huffington Post, who has recently put out a book about sleep) say that when she’s getting ready for bed, she “escorts” her devices out of her bedroom, which I think is a nice way of putting it – she has 12 tips on her website for better sleep that you can download here.

I turn my phone to airplane mode when I shut down my other devices but I need the progressive alarm on the phone to wake me in the morning. This is a series of chimes that start off very quietly and get louder over the interval that I set (it’s about 6 minutes) – intended not to disturb anyone else, because I wake up before they get too loud and turn it off. I’ve tried to find something like a progressive alarm that’s a standalone clock but have had no luck, so until I can find something like that the phone has to stay!

Having a completely dark bedroom – which means blackout curtains and/or a sleep mask, and even going as far as no LED displays like clock-radios. We’re lucky to live in a relatively dark and quiet street, so haven’t needed blackout curtains, though they might come in handy in summer when it gets light earlier. It’s on the house improvement list.

Keeping the temperature relatively cool – apparently you need to drop your core body temperature slightly before you go to sleep; this is why a lot of people recommend a bath or a shower as part of their evening routine. There are several different recommendations out there as to what the optimal sleeproom temperature is, but I suppose it would vary between different people – they key is to having a lower temperature than your normal living environment.

The reason is apparently this (according to science):

Over a 24 hour period, our body temperatures naturally peak and decline. Our internal temperature is usually at its highest in the early afternoon and lowest around 5am. When we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool off. Helping keep your body get to that lower temperature faster can encourage deeper sleep.

(http://www.simplemost.com/science-says-sleeping-cold-room-better-health-because-body-heat/)

I didn’t need to make a lot of changes to complete this challenge, but I’m still on the lookout for a progressive alarm clock that isn’t a phone app, so I can get the phone totally out of the bedroom. So if you know of such a thing, please let me know!

Challenge 3: Evening rituals – day 22

Day three of the Asian Efficiency Evening Rituals Challenge  is to track your rituals.

Gretchen Rubin discusses habit tracking in what she calls the Strategy of Monitoring  in her book Better than Before. She says: “Monitoring has an almost uncanny power. It doesn’t require change, but it often leads to change, because people who keep close track of just about anything tend to do a better job of managing it.” This can apply both to monitoring how well you’re doing something now, to see where you need to make changes (for example, tracking your sleep, or how much you eat or exercise will give you a better indication of your actual performance than just estimating it), and also when you start to make changes, to show you how well you’re doing.

One of the tools I’m using at the moment is a website and app called Ritualize, where you can list all the habits you want to do and how many times a week you want to do it. Each habit has a check box that you can check off when you’ve done it each day and you get points every times you check something off. When I first signed up it was through work, and people were able to join “tribes” to compete against each other – the idea being that if other people were doing the same thing you’d be encouraged to keep up your good habits too. I think this would work better if there were more people I knew that were using it regularly, but there is a nice little community of users that I connect with in my feed, which keeps it interesting. There’s heaps of other apps out there that do similar things, including Habitica, which is a habit tracking role playing game that I started to use but never really got into. I’m told it works really well.

Or you can use good old fashioned pen and paper, a calendar, an Excel spreadsheet or even a whiteboard and check things off when you do them.

Why would you do this?

According to Asian Efficiency, tracking your habits is important because:

  • First,  it holds you accountable. You only really know if you’ve been following through with your intentions if you have the data to back you up.
  • Second, it motivates. By drawing a fat X on a calendar, checking a box off of your paper tracker, clicking a button in your app, or entering another day in your Excel sheet, you make the invisible visible. You’ll see your progress. And that’s motivating.

I’ve decided, for a bit of extra encouragement, to track my evening routine on paper as well for a couple of weeks to try and get the routine ingrained, or see if anything needs to shift around, be dropped out or added in. That way if I have my notebook with me, not only do I have the routine somewhere I can see it, I can see how much progress I’m making.

20160806 Bedtime routine