Over the years I have always had this intent to try a deceptively simple practice. Whenever you think you should do something, instead of weaseling your way out of it or finding a reason to justify why you don’t need to do it, you just do it. Instead of thinking “I should really make dinner…but I’m going to go out for Thai food instead.” you just make dinner. If you find that you’re missing the coconut milk you need to make the dish happen, you just dash out to the store and grab it. Instead of thinking “But it’s cold outside and who wants to go for a run in that kind of weather, you put on an extra layer and go.
I have yet to actually do it 100% but what I can say with confidence is that those times I’ve focused on behaving that way – at least in key areas of my life, I haven’t just met the goals I was pursuing that the tasks were related to, I felt better and more control.
And so, these days, I’m slowly but surely ramping up the things in which I just do what I know I should do. At this point the two areas I’m focusing on are cooking/eating, and fitness. I chose these to start with as for me, these are the foundations on which everything else rests. If I’m eating right and exercising, I feel good, I sleep better, and anything else productive that I want to do I feel more capable of doing.
So about 3 years ago I didn’t really pay attention to what I ate – I ate what sounded good when I was hungry and stopped eating when I was full. Or if the food was delicious, I’d stop when I couldn’t eat any more. This wasn’t a great practice in Canada, but then I went to do some work in Louisiana.
In Canada everyone talks about the huge portions in restaurants in the US. In most of the US, people talk about the huge portions in restaurants in the south. Louisiana is about as much of an example of that as could be. There was food. Much of it was fried and delicious, desserts were sweet and delicious. Soft drinks were gigantic, sugar filled, and everywhere you ordered one you were offered a refill – usually about a litre – to take with you.
And now I was there for 10 days with an expense account. I could basically order anything on the menu I wanted.
Sometimes my breakfast looked like this. That would be: Three eggs, “hash brown casserole” (potatoes and cheese), sausage, ham, and bacon. Grits (corn porridge with butter), sausage gravy, biscuits, fried apples, a muffin, coffee, and orange juice. To be fair, I could not finish this.
Lunch might look like this – crawfish etouffee with rice and fried catfish filets. Hush puppies (basically delicious deep-fried cornbread balls) are in a basket just off the side.
Don’t forget dessert – pecan pie is one of my absolute favourite things.
Dinner could be in the hotel room. How about some pastalaya – like jambalaya with pasta instead of rice with lots of sausage and chicken. Add some more red beans cooked in pork with a small tub of rice on the side. Then add some potato salad. And you can’t visit Louisiana without gumbo, right? That delicious soup has lots more tender chicken and andouille sausage in it.
This is how my 10 days looked. Sometimes there would also be appetizers, other times soup. And at the end I got home having gained 9 pounds. That’s right – almost a pound a day. I had just hit 220 lbs.
It was a bit of a mental landmark for me and I felt like I was at a decision point. I could change how I ate or just give up and watch my health deteriorate. In the end I went with a nutrition coach at Rise. My coach, Karen, really helped me tweak my eating habits. Ironically one of the first things she told me to do was eat more (sensible) snacks. This helped me feel less ravenous at mealtime and eat less. Then she gave me tips on what I should be eating and adjusted my portions. More vegetables, less starch. I never felt hungry but it seemed to work. I lost about 10 lbs a month, settling in at 181.
I’ve since gone back up to just under 200. I know why – I’ve been careless again. I didn’t pay attention to what I eat, portion sizes went up. My activity levels didn’t go up. This time I don’t need to have a coach to tell me what I need to do. I adjusted my shopping list and meal plan.
Last night I made a Chicken Vindaloo. This brings me to another challenge I have. I really like my cooking and so I will continue to eat long after I’ve had enough because it was so good. Last night, though, I kept it simple. About 1 cup of chicken, two chapatis, a little spoonful of pickle, and a 1/4 cup of yogurt. Even that was more than enough though if I weren’t caring what I ate I might eat 2 more helpings just like that and rice besides.
I went back and looked at my breakfasts. This meal hasn’t been too bad for me – lately I eat a couple of eggs, some baby carrots, maybe some hummus or toast with peanut butter. Today, though, I went to an old standby I’d forgotten:
This was a bowl of about 2 cups of cauliflower rice – basically pan-toasted cauliflower that had been chopped extremely finely in the food processor to about rice-sized pieces. In that I cooked a bit of black kale. On top of that I added a bit of kimchi and shredded carrot, and on top of that a sunny side up egg. It was delicious.
Lunch was a big salad: spring mix, carrots, walnuts, a bit of hummus and guacamole, and baked tofu for protein. Very tasty.
After that I had a bit of peanut butter toast and a banana just before I got on the bike. As for dinner – that’ll likely be another salad. I’d planned on a homemade Thai red curry but I’m home alone tonight – I’ll save that for a night the rest of the family is here and so I’ll have another salad.
This is probably the #1 thing that affects my mood. I’ve said it before – it’s as noticeable as when I have my morning coffee. Sage can tell just by how I talk if I’ve exercised or not.
As you saw in my previous entry I got on my bike on Sunday for about 30 minutes. And yesterday I braved the below-freezing weather and got out for my first run in a very long time. It was quite cold and I probably should have worn gloves but I was only out for 15 minutes – just over a mile / 2km, so I could deal with just about any conditions.
The run went well. I can feel that I’m definitely out of shape. 15 minutes was the edge of what I was able to reasonably do. This is pretty hard for me to think about considering that I could literally run 10 times that distance back in October 2016. But I’ll hopefully be back there by October 2018 for the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon.
Today I woke up a bit sore – I definitely felt it in my legs today. But I wasn’t going to be deterred. As soon as work was done and I’d had my snack, I hopped on the bike. Tonight it would be a bit more fun because I’d rearranged my desk. Sage had rearranged her own office and gave up her monitor mount that clamps to her desk and swings around. The result is that I was able to move my monitor easily from in front of where my desk is to in front of the handlebars of my bike where I would ride. I put on some good music, turned on the fan and got going.
Just moving the monitor a little closer somehow made it that much more fun. I had a great ride, even beating one of my personal records.
Today’s ride was about 45 minutes – easing up to my usual 60 min or so. It was pretty high intensity also – as you can see from the photo I’m approaching my maximum heart rate.
Interestingly enough, after 45 minutes on the bike, the soreness in my legs that I’d had all day had nearly disappeared.
So the plan for the near future is to alternate days: running / cycling with one complete day off per week. Tomorrow’s a running day – it may take a little extra effort to get me out there – especially while it’s cold like this. When it gets warm out I’ll have the opposite problem – risking injury because I run for longer because it is such a gorgeous day and the music is good and I’m having fun. This has happened more than once and resulted in my having to stop running for several weeks to let myself heal.
This one’s a big beast and I’ll need to attack it with many small battles, I think. Today’s first battle was a success. When I was finished with breakfast I knew I should really clean the kitchen. Future-me would appreciate it when making lunch. But I didn’t want to and it seemed like it would take a long time. Besides, I needed to get working.
And then I had an idea for an experiment. I decided I would do the task I thought I should do. I would clean the kitchen instead of leaving it for later. But before I started, I started a stopwatch. I wanted to see just how big a job I was putting off. I did everything and then pressed “stop” on the stopwatch.
I was procrastinating over 7 minutes. It would literally take me longer to listen to “Hey Jude” than it did to do this task I was so against doing. It’s something I’m definitely going to remember for the future.
What tasks do you put off? Are they as hard as you think they are? Have you tried timing them?
Hindi study: I’m going to be phasing in more practice. My practice partner from Maharashtra is having Internet difficulties but we’ll start in soon. Monday nights will be a local teacher, and thanks to a reader, I’ve found another teacher to help me out three days/week. I’m determined to improve things.
Work productivity: I know I can do better with my workflow and be more productive. I’m going to tweak things during the day to make sure that starts happening.
Food: I still need to get better at planning meals and ensuring I have all the food I need at home. Some of this is extra-challenging now because Sage didn’t cook while I was gone so I’m starting from scratch in some ways. But I’ve always had trouble planning ahead for eating. I know I can do better, though, and will try to do this. This will help the other side of our eating challenge – eating out too often. So often I intend to cook but either procrastinate (another thing I can work on) or find that I am missing an ingredient – or procrastinate and THEN find this out. At that point I give up and go get takeout. I know I can do better than this.
How about you guys – What are you folks working on?