On 28th May I turned 47, which I concluded is a bit of a non-descript age – too old to be in my mid-forties, but too young to be ‘nearly 50’. However, it did make me realise that I only have 3 years to go to the next big milestone birthday and got me thinking. The best way to describe myself is ‘fair, fat and forty-something’. I don’t want to be ‘fair, fat and fifty’ – clearly there is not an awful lot I can do about the fair and the fifty part! Over the past week I’ve been reading ‘A Year of Less‘ by Cait Flanders, the premise being to live a year of spending less money and really thinking about what she is spending money on and why. This got me to thinking – what could I change between now and my next birthday to try to tackle the ‘fat’.
Being realistic – I’m not hugely overweight, as like many people I could do with losing a bit of weight – but my major complaint is that I do feel unhealthy. Often I feel quite sluggish and as if I’m walking through treacle, some days I really struggle to get going and I am fairly confident that what I put into my body is a key factor in this. I know I could be healthier and my birthday was the trigger to change. And there is not getting away from the fact that I am a woman of a certain age and the big ‘M’ word is looming on the horizon!
Unfortunately, in the two weeks since my birthday I have changed precisely nothing – and so I am starting again from today – 11th June! Husband is a great believer in doing things one step at a time. There is little point in my changing everything at once – how will I know what works, what made me feel better, if I do it all at once. During the course of the year I am going to try cutting out certain foods and drinks, adding in other foods, increasing the amount of exercise I do, taking different supplements and also trying some alternative therapies to see what the impact is on my general health and wellbeing.
Obviously – in order to measure this I need a benchmark! I don’t use scales so can’t use that as a measure, but do have other variables that I can monitor.
- I drink one large glass a day, five days a week
- I eat cake or have a dessert three or four times a week.
- I eat a single chocolate stick (e.g. one twin stick) most days of the week.
- I exercise once or twice per week – mainly yoga and swimming.
- I walk an average of 3 miles per day.
- I have one cup of milky coffee first thing in the morning
- I probably have one piece of fruit a day.
- I probably have one or two portions of veg per day.
- I don’t eat much by way of bread or pasta.
- I take a multivitamin sporadically.
- I go for reflexology and / or kinesiology once a month.
Clearly, this list is not exhaustive and I suppose describes the average person – not particularly unhealthy but not particularly healthy either.
This month I am focusing on cutting out alcohol – and thus far have not done a very good job at it! I really don’t drink vast amounts – but the impact on my body is as though I do. This past Friday I had a glass of wine with my lunch. We went out in the evening and I had one cocktail and two large glasses of wine, interspersed with a few glasses of sparking water. I lost most of Saturday because of how awful I felt – as in bone crushingly awful – I had a headache, I ached all over, I had no energy and just wanted the day to pass me by. Why, therefore, do I do this to myself? I genuinely wish I knew the answer.
I know that I went all the way through university without drinking a drop. Followed by time spent in America, followed by getting married and settled at home, followed by a subsequent divorce and moving back to my home town. All of this was achieved without drinking a drop of alcohol. I knew what the consequence was and chose not to drink. I can even remember key events where I was persuaded to drink and how they were ruined: a friend’s hen night which I missed because I had one glass of champagne early in the evening; another friend’s wedding where I spent the evening familiarising myself with the ladies because I’d had wine with the meal. Even now, I have crushing headaches as a consequence of drinking one or two glasses of wine.
I’ve given this some thought – and I don’t like to continually blame teaching for everything – as clearly I have a choice in the matter. But I increasingly turned to the odd glass of wine (and more than the odd packet of Haribos) as a mechanism to cope with the pressures of the job, particularly in one challenging school. At that point I can only think that I really didn’t care what the impact was on my health – or that I was in so much of a fog anyway that I didn’t really notice the effects of the alcohol. Either way, I was drinking an increasing amount. Again, it’s not huge amounts, it probably amounted to one bottle of white wine per week – but the consequences of that wine on my body, it might well have been one bottle per day. But then, I think it became a social thing – I finally ‘got’ why people drank when they got to the pub, and how it does make an evening more enjoyable, but each and every time it came with a consequence. A consequence that I’d now like to banish.
Husband has another theory – that you have to reach a point that you want to change – if you’ve not reached that point then there is little point in trying as more than likely you will struggle to succeed. My 47th birthday was that point. I don’t want to feel like this at 50. Julie Creffield of The Fat Girls Guide to Running also has a theory. That you must have accountability – that you have to put yourself out there loud and proud for the world to see. So writing this today is me being visible and me being held accountable. I do genuinely want to see what the impact is of these changes and experiments on my health and well-being. I anticipate some will make no difference whatsoever and some may have more of an impact than I ever thought possible. So, besides giving the alcohol a miss for a while, I’m also going to commit to posting more photographs of myself, being visible in my own life. Hopefully, that will also serve as a measure of my journey from here to healthy.