Food and drink, Healthy living, reflection, Well-being

Lent 2022

So, Easter has arrived and Lent has come to an end.  And I have largely given up cake and chocolate for 47 days.  I say largely because there were some special occasions when I did have cake:

For example:

  • A friend came to visit me in Albufeira and we always celebrate with a visit to the fabulous Riviera cake shop.
  • Another friend came to visit and we also met up for a walking tour around Faro followed with a coffee and a Portuguese tart
  • We went fo a couple of nice meals which came with dessert included
  • My sister came for a visit.  I’ve not seen her in person yet this year and we went for a walk with a cake stop.

What has gone by the wayside is the following:

  • a daily biscuit, chocolate bar or piece of cake at around 11.00 am
  • a nightly bit of chocolate watching TV
  • having a cake every time I go to a coffee shop to meet a friendIt meant that I was usually having chocolate and / or cake at least once a day.  That was what I wanted to stop.  And I have.
  • Sneaking a bit of chocolate out of the fridge

What I am learning about giving things up is it comes with a raft of questions surrounding the behaviour in the first place, which I do find quite fascinating.  Why do I drink wine when I know it will make me feel awful? Why I feel the need to eat chocolate and cake every day?  What need was it fulfilling?  What factors are affecting the choices that I make? Thinking about my childhood I can’t really identify any connection with comfort eating, or chocolate as a reward.  We did always get a finger of fudge and another bar of chocolate on Tuesday and Thursday when our Grandparents came to visit.  But beyond that, I can’t really say that there was ever any emotional attachment to cake or chocolate that I was aware of.  I just liked it.  Better than anything else – or so I thought!

I also can’t really say that anything ever triggered a real desire or need to eat chocolate or cake once I’d left home.  I suspect that more than anything there have just been ‘things’ that came up over time that created habits that then became ingrained.

I do know that there was an association between break time and eating a snack when I was teaching.  I do quite genuinely struggle to get timings of food right sometimes.  This has always been a feature of my life.  I remember sometimes at school as a child I’d ask to go to the toilet during lessons, when in actual fact, I was going to get a biscuit off my mum in the office because I was having the shakes through hunger.  When I went in to teaching I became conscious of the fact I could only eat at specific times of the day and if I didn’t eat then, there was potential for it to go wrong later in the day.  The only problem was I got caught up in a habit of eating something with a cup of tea at 11:00am.  That something was usually a chocolate bar.  Everyone in my last school knew I had a latte and twin during morning break – to the extent that sometimes a kind student would buy them and deliver them just as be bell for break was sounding.  Unfortunately, when I was working in a school where I was unhappy, I did start the habit of a sneaky bag of Haribo Tangfastics in the car on my way home.

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

Then, I do also know that our nightly habit of eating chocolate in front of the TV was a consequence of lockdown.  We lived very close to an M&S food hall and they had some seriously cheap chocolates during the first lock down.  We had the mother of a chocolate stash!  Unfortunately, once lockdown was over we carried on the habit of eating chocolate every night.

So.  Back to Lent.  I have managed to break these two habits and can see now that they were primarily habits.  There is no real emotional attachment, just habit.  I make a cup of tea at 11:00 (ish) and reach for a chocolate biscuit or three.  I sit down to watch TV after dinner, and my brain equates that with chocolate time.  During lent husband has also cut down on his chocolate consumption.  Not because I asked him to join me in lent, but because he’s realised he too is bored of chocolate every night.  It’s no longer a treat.  Eating chocolate and cake to this degree cannot be good for you.  

I have, however, discovered that there is a emotional element to my eating habits – even though I hadn’t thought there was one.  At the beginning of lent it was really hard.  At those habitual times I struggled not to eat chocolate or cake.  But the emotional eating was hard too.  I realised just how much I did turn to chocolate, cake and biscuits for every emotion.  If I was happy, sad, irritated, cross, tired, bored, if my hormones were raging – every time my first instinct was to reach for a sweet treat.  But there wasn’t one to be had.  There was no sneaky pieces of chocolate, no sneaky jelly babies.  The options available were few and unappetising!  I found that most often I reverted to:

  • A walk
  • Sitting and meditating for a while
  • Sitting and watching the feelings and letting them subside
  • Having a cup of tea
  • Doing another activity I do enjoy, like writing or knitting.
  • The occasional meltdown!

All of which worked.  All of which made me realise how much of an emotional eater I was.  Never did I eat something else instead.  You see, I wasn’t really hungry, I just wanted the emotion to go away.  I wanted to feel better and I was forced to find alternative ways to achieve that.  I realised that the chocolate and cake was never making things better, it was just putting them off for another day.

Sadly, I have not lost one pound in weight as a consequence of giving up chocolate and cake, on top of the wine I had already given up.  Husband says that I have been eating far more than I usually do at meal time – which I hadn’t realised – and which provided another  opportunity for pondering and reflection.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

With each passing thing that I’m giving up, it brings other behaviours and habits into the spotlight that I hadn’t appreciated were there. I realised I don’t enjoy wine and prefer being able to do other activities instead of drinking and that I don’t need the wine to enjoy socialising.  I have also realised that I don’t need cake or chocolate.  When we have been out for dinner during Lent I’ve not actually wanted desserts that have been offered and it’s made me consider why it was I always ordered one.  I’ve registered that I am full.  Previously, I would always have managed three courses.  It turns out I don’t have a pudding stomach after all. This has gone a bit further when I realised that I am never hungry.  I rarely wake up hungry, I rarely eat a meal because I’m hungry. I certainly don’t eat snacks because I’m hungry.  Most of the time I eat because a meal has been placed in front of me.  Because it’s time to eat.  

I realised I no longer recognise hunger signals.  I am so used to just eating that I don’t know what a hunger signal feels like.  Sometimes I skip straight from not hungry to too hungry and so then have to eat something relatively quickly.  Between the two is a point at which I must be hungry and I need to recognise that.  I realise that I rarely stop eating when I am full, I eat the plate of food in front of me – not because I have to – not even because I want to much of the time, but because it’s there.  I went out with my husband for our wedding anniversary earlier this week, and it’s the first time in a long time that I registered that I was too full – and that I wasn’t actually happy with the amount of food I had eaten.  The food was beautiful and we’d go back to the same restaurant again, but the portions were just too big and I really didn’t enjoy the over full feeling I came home with.  In the past I would have carried on regardless and eaten dessert as well, and repented at leisure the following day!  

So.  Over the last 3 months or so I have cut out wine, cut out chocolate and cake – to the extent that I don’t actually want to rush out and eat cake and now I am starting to recognise that I over eat and am starting to be more mindful of portion sizes and when I am actually full. I have become aware of the emotions and habits that lead to me choosing to eat chocolate and cake – it’s habits that have been formed over the years that I hadn’t realised were happening. I can understand more fully how it is that people can turn down cake, or how my sister can just eat a few squares from a chocolate bar.  It’s just chocolate. 

For the foreseeable future I will continue as I am, and pay closer attention to what I’m eating, why and when.  Am I hungry?  What does that feel like? It’s actually quite exciting to learn to understand my habits and find ways to improve them, or in some cases get rid of them completely.  This is a very welcome side effect of Lent that I had really not anticipated and I look forward to finding out more about myself and enjoying food again. 

Photo by George Dolgikh @ Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com
Exercise, Healthy living, Well-being

It’s not OK, I’m not ‘just fit’

Recently, whilst at a Nordic Walking class a fellow walker was commenting on how much the Nordic Walking was hurting their arms.  So we discussed why that might be.  Then they said ‘It’s OK for you, you’re fit’.

I suppose compared to the average person I am quite fit.  On the scale of fit people, I’d put myself towards the lower end.  But that’s not the bit that struck me.  It was the whole ‘It’s OK for you, you’re fit’.  Is that generally what people think – that fitter people are just fit?  Do they not realise the level of effort involved in being ‘just fit’?  Do they not understand the choices that fit people make on a daily basis?  There is no fit person I know that is ‘just fit’. I can’t imagine that there are many people who are and is this generally a myth that people believe, that some people find being fit and healthy an easy choice.

Taking myself as an example.  Everyday I try to complete some form of exercise.  Even if it’s a short walk and a bit of stretching, a short fitness class, or doing exercises from the physiotherapist.  Because that’s what I need to do to keep the pain at bay, to manage a prolapse, to keep my body moving as best it can as I mature.  I am (hopefully) doing the best that I can to enable me to continue to be fit and active for the next 20 years.  This does not come easy to me and it never has, I am not a natural athlete.  I would very much like to be able to sit all day and not have to bother with exercise.  But I must.  How I would love not to.  I also make choices everyday about what to eat and drink.  Again, these are not easy choices.  How I would love to eat as many crisps, chocolate, cake as I liked.  Or drink as much alcohol as I liked.  But I can’t.  It’s not good for my physical and mental health and impedes the exercise I need to do to keep me moving freely and keep my brain sane.  These are not easy choices.  They do not ‘just’ happen.  I am not ‘just fit’.  This is a daily commitment to my health and well-being. 

Walking in Clifton, Bristol.

During the past week I have carried out some very low-scale market research to find out if anyone would consider being fit to be an easy option.

Looking at my husband, he will be the first to admit that he is at the obese end of the weight scale.  But what people don’t see is he is currently at the lowest weight he has been for over 20 years.  What people also don’t see is the 12,000 steps he takes every day.  They don’t see the food choices he makes every day.  They don’t see the level of effort he puts in to make sure he doesn’t move further towards the obese end of the scale.  They make judgements based on his appearance and assume that he  must be fat and lazy – he is neither.  He is currently struggling with a problem with his hip which has impeded his ability to complete his steps.  This has been devastating for him, both mentally and physically.  Not being able to achieve his daily step count has knocked his mental health and he is becoming increasingly frustrated at his inability to maintain what fitness he had.  Like me he makes daily choices around food, exercise and drink.  This does not ‘just’ happen.

For the last 6 months or so I have been doing online fitness sessions with Fitter Food Lover.  Slowly I have increased the weights that I use and am seeing improvements in my strength, fitness and general well-being.  I asked the personal trainer and other members of the group if they would consider being fit an easy choice.  Not one said that it was.  Each one makes a daily choice around diet and exercise and each one has their own reasons for doing so:  to maintain fitness and flexibility as they mature, to be fit and active parents to their family, to feel better about themselves generally.

I asked members of the Nordic Walking group that I belong to.  I even asked two women who had just finished a run and were heading to the café for a well earned cup of tea if they found being fit easy or enjoyable. It was a resounding ‘no’.

I also asked my sister if she would consider herself just fit.  She is a physiotherapist and works alongside Help the Aged running fitness groups for the elderly, enabling them to maintain their mobility, and therefore, their independence as they age.  She cited many reasons for maintaining fitness including building core strength and keeping your pelvic floor as healthy as it can be.  But no, she agreed that it’s not easy. It’s a choice people make and a commitment they make to themselves – to be the fittest version of themselves they can be – for as long as they can.

I asked each of these people five questions:

  1. Do you consider yourself to be ‘just fit’?
  2. Do you look forward to exercising?
  3. Do you enjoy exercise?
  4. Do you enjoy the benefits of exercise?
  5. Do you find any aspect of diet and fitness easy?

No one really considered themselves to be ‘just fit’.

Some did look forward to exercising.  Some less so.  Personally, I rarely look forward to exercise.  It’s always a challenge for me to drag myself to classes, to the swimming pool, or out for a walk. I would always choose staying at home and doing nothing.  It helps me if I know there are other people expecting me to turn up and it also helps if I have paid for the sessions in advance as that forces me to go along.

Most people said did enjoy the exercise once they got going and once they got there and that the biggest battle was getting to the class, or stepping out to run in the first place.

Everyone that I asked said they did enjoy the benefits of exercise.  They enjoyed the feeling that being fit and exercising gave them and it’s this that spurs them on.  Personally I love that when I have exercised I feel tired in a ‘worked hard’ sort of way and not a ‘lethargic about life’ kind of way.  I love the way I can feel my body toning up and that my core is getting stronger.  I love that I am able to manage my prolapse through exercise and haven’t, as yet, had to resort to other more invasive methods.  I like waking up having enough energy to make it through the day without having to have a ‘Nana Nap’.  I really enjoy not being in pain and want to maintain that for as long as I possibly can.

Nobody really found it easy.  Some found it easier than others, largely dependent on other commitments that they needed to fit around their exercise. Some found it easier the more consistent they were and if, for whatever reason, they had fallen off the exercise or diet wagon found it hard to get back up again.  I know that this is true for me.  The more consistent I am, the easier I do find exercising.  I also find it easier if I have a specific goal, which is why I tend to like a challenge of some kind. My personal trainer did say something which I found really interesting.  ‘If it was easy there wouldn’t be an obesity epidemic.  It’s our nature as a species to conserve energy and take the easy route.  Our ancestors were fitter and healthier because they had to do things to get food.  Now all we need to do is press our phone screens and it’s there’.

I found this really thought provoking and it made me think about my own Grandmother.  She didn’t drive.  She lived a good 15 minute walk away from the nearest food shops.  She walked far more than I have ever had to in order to complete basic chores throughout the day.  The diet that she ate was generally healthier then the diets that people eat today and it took time for her to cook a meal every evening.  Fast food and convenience food didn’t exist – there was not alternative choice.  Even if I think about how things have changed during my life, I can see how much more I sit still every day than I did 20 years ago.  There is increasingly no real reason to move and so it’s even more important to create times in the day when you do.  This is not an easy choice.  I recently listened to an episode of ‘Happy Place‘ podcast where Rangan Chattergee raised the point that people who do choose to make healthy choices are increasingly considered outcasts, the ‘not-normal’, despite the proven benefits of a healthy diet and daily exercise.  Where along the line did it become unusual to live a healthy life-style? Or unusual to include exercise in our daily lives? We have more free time than our ancestors, so at which point did we choose to spend that time doing as little as possible? Apparently this is part of our genetic wiring, to conserve energy for when we need it. The problem is that nowadays we are conserving energy for a danger that we are unlikely to face and the consequence is a population that is becoming increasingly sedentary and finding exercise to be something for other, fit, people.

I concluded that being fit is a scale.  Some people are naturally more predisposed to exercise and have a natural talent for different types of exercise.  Some people do enjoy exercise more than others and find it easier to fit into their daily routine.  Some families are more exposed to exercise than others – and an active family will more than likely produce children who enjoy exercising, or taking part in team sports.  But I’m not sure than anyone would say that they find exercise easy, whatever their level of sporting prowess, nor would I say that anyone is ‘just fit’, it’s a daily choice they make to include fitness as a part of their lifestyle.  The one thing they would all have in common is the benefits and rewards they enjoy in return for the effort spent in exercising.  

Cycling in Albufeira, Portugal
Exercise, Happiness, Healthy living, Mindfulness, Well-being

The Wheels on my Wagon go Round and Round

It’s been a month since my last glass of wine, so it goes to follow that its also a month since my last wine induced migraine.

I cannot believe the difference one month has made.  Not so much in how I feel physically, or look, and certainly not how much I weigh, but in terms of mental health the change has been huge.

The old me is making an appearance.  The me that inhabited the world until c.2009.  The me that twirls through life, is distracted by flowers and sparkles, sees hope in the worst of times and whose job it is to smile and make people laugh (mainly at me).

Before moving to Bristol (BB) I was alcohol free.  I exercised.  I wasn’t 100% healthy and struggled at time balancing my health and work but for the main part I was happy. I enjoyed my job and the school I worked at.  I was in a small department with three fabulous men and the office was usually filled with inane boy banter:  football, music, tv, what we had for tea last night.  There was no gossiping, there was no keeping score, just a generally calm, supportive working environment.

After moving to Bristol (AB) my life fell apart pretty quickly and it’s not until I look back that I can appreciate that fact.  I worked with challenging students on a daily basis with little by way of support and it took its toll – on my mental health, my husband’s mental health and our relationship.  It was then that I first started to drink, not, I now realise to deaden the pain or to deal with the stress of the situation, but to try to find the spark, the part of me that I knew was still in there.  The part of me that had gone into hibernation.  It’s hard to function in the world when you know a significant part of yourself is missing. It’s like permanently wading through treacle, trying to present a version of yourself to the world, hoping they can’t see the cracks. More often than I would like to admit, the cracks became chasms and I did struggle with life.

Slowly over the past 12 months I have started to crawl back out of hibernation, to unfurl my wings and take tentative steps back into the world as me.  Not the me that people think I should be, but the me that I used to be – Before Bristol. I like this version of me and feel sad that she has been hidden away from the world for such a long while.  Giving up wine is the final step in this process.

There’s always a flower to be found!

I’ve rediscovered the delight of exercising with good friends and the feelgood feeling that it gives me.  Once again my priority is my health.  Eating healthily feels normal and natural, I’m not on the rollercoaster of ups and downs that comes from drinking, feeling bad, eating sweets to cope, feeling bad, and have stopped making consistently poor choices.  I’m not perfect, but due to lent I am making further progress as I have given up chocolate, biscuits and cakes which is forcing me to pick healthy snacks – which, I’ll confess, are nothing like as tasty but I’m hoping it will be worth it in the long term.

I am starting to love socialising again.  I do love going out. I love the banter and the energy of an evening out.  Bizarrely, I prefer it sober.  I found having to drink quite stressful as I knew that there was always going to be quite a severe consequence, despite drinking a minimal amount and to know that I can go out, have fun, and wake up headache free, filled with energy and ready to take on the day is amazing.  I have re-found my love of life.  I love life, everything about it and I’m starting to enjoy it again, to spot the flowers by the roadside, to hear the birds singing and I no longer feel like I am dragging myself from one day to the next.  It feels like there is a purpose to my days again. I am laughing again.

The wheels are well and truly back on my wagon, they are well oiled and ready to trundle on their merry way, safe and secure.  I might even get around to pimping my wagon!

Happiness, reflection, Walking, Well-being

February 2022

February has been and gone.  Here in Albufeira, there are signs of spring and of the holiday season beginning.  Most bars and restaurants will be open by the end of March and there is spring cleaning going on all around us.  I anticipate that this year will be busier than it has been for many years.  Whilst on the one hand I have enjoyed having the town to ourselves, the Algarve needs the money from tourism.  The businesses desperately want the British tourists to come and spend their money, and I know the British are equally desperate to go on holiday, so it is nice to see people arriving for their holidays and short breaks.  You can spot a British tourist a mile off.  They are the ones in shorts and flip flops whilst the rest of us are still in jeans and sweatshirts!

Anyway, back to February.  I really didn’t make that much progress on my list of 22 things for 2022 during the month.  Primarily to a raging headache, initially caused by two glasses of wine at dinner.  I spent one week getting rid of the headache, and a second week getting rid of the headache caused by the painkillers I’d taken for the first headache.  So it was the sort of month where I just laid low, did what needed to be done and accepted that was the way it was going to be.  This is a new departure for me.  In the past I would have battled on regardless, but it is a sign of progress that I actually did just stop and spend time tackling the headaches and their root cause.  This has also led to my actively avoiding alcohol and I am currently at 16 days without a drink.

There are signs of spring across Albufeira

The only area where I really did make progress was towards my target of walking 1000 miles in the year.  I am now up to 322 miles.  My current aim is to divide the year into quarterly chunks and increase the target for each quarter by a smidgette!  What I love about walking is even on the lowest of days I can still manage something, even if it’s only a gentle walk to the end of the road to look across the beach.  I am still having to remind myself to walk rather than sit at home, particularly when we are in Portugal.  When we are in Bristol I have a Nordic Walking Group that I go along to and that enables me to maintain my distances – that tends to go by the wayside a little in Portugal as I definitely need an incentive to get up and out.  This is really quite frustrating as I do feel so much better for exercising.  During the past week or so I have been very lazy and can feel my body start to seize up – it definitely wants to begin moving more frequently again.  

For one of the list of 22 – listen to a new album each month – I changed the remit slightly. In her book ‘Quit Like a Woman’ which I read in January, Holly Whitaker recommends creating a playlist of music that calms the mind.  So whilst I didn’t listen to a specific album I did spend the month listening to Spa Music, which is a definite departure from my usual choices.  My theory was if it’s good enough to have a massage to, then it must be calming and relaxing to have on in the background.  And I have to say that I have really enjoyed it.  When I’m studying, when I’m showering I have the music playing in the background and it is genuinely calming.  Even husband has commented on how much he enjoys having it playing in the background.  I’m going to go back to listening to a specific album during March, but will definitely keep playing the spa music at certain times of the day.  The album for March is ‘Aladdin Sane’ by David Bowie.  I’ve never really listened to much of Bowie’s music, and know very little about his earlier albums, but when I asked a group of friends for album recommendations they all agreed that this one was a must.

Even a short walk lifts the spirits when the sky is this blue!

I also didn’t make any progress on reading fiction.  I’m not entirely sure I read one complete book in the month.  The first fiction book I opened my kindle at the beginning of the month was ‘The Imposter’ by Damon Galgut.  I think it was an Amazon recommendation that I got for next to nothing.  It’s not really my cup of tea and I probably should have abandoned it and started something else instead.  But I am at the 80% point now, so I really don’t have any excuses not to complete it within the next few days.  I am going to set aside a few minutes each day to sit and read and get it finished.  For part of my Creative Writing module for my latest degree they recommended reading a range of genres and authors to widen my repertoire.  I have done that with this book and won’t be rushing back to read another one!  I’m hopeful that March will see a return to enjoyable reading!

March also coincides with lent and so I am going to embrace the opportunity!  When I completed Sober October, I found a ready made excuse does make giving something up far more easy.  Nobody questions your motives.  So, I am giving up cakes and chocolate for lent.  As much as anything, I’d quite like to see what difference it does make to my weight and general sense of well-being.  A few years ago I was listening to ‘Thought for the Day’ on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show and the guest speaker was saying that lent isn’t just about giving up and doing without.  It’s about making a commitment to something – so that could be a daily walk, reading for 30 minutes a day, anything really.  So as well as giving up sweet treats I am going to commit to the daily writing practice I set for a target at the beginning of the year and see if I can maintain that commitment for the period of lent.  

So there we have it.  Another month completed and I look forward to making more progress towards my 22 for 2022 throughout March.

Bristol, Exercise, reflection, Sustainable Living, Well-being

January 2022

Well, it would be fair to say that I have already failed on one of my 22 for 2022.  That of writing a blog post once a week.  January has passed me by in a blur.  Here in Bristol it has been fairly mediocre!  The weather hasn’t really added up to much and there have been some days when leaving the house felt like an effort too far. In a way it was good to have this list of challenges, because it did actually make me do something other than watch the month pass me by.

It felt like a mammoth achievement to make it to Christmas with daily covid testing, husband testing positive for covid over the Christmas period, cancelled Christmas plans and the quietest Christmas for many a year.  Just making it as far as the New Year seemed enough and like many people we have pretty much hunkered down for January.  It was nice not to go out, not to worry about going out, but to spend cosy evenings in front of the TV. Not helped by the weather – which has been particularly gloomy.

In addition to that we have been decorating our home.  It’s only a one bedroom flat which means it has been impossible to empty a room, decorate and then move everything back in.  It became quite wearing in the end, permanently living in some version of chaos.  That too has come to an end as we had the deadline of the last week of January to get as much done as possible prior to having carpets fitted throughout.  

I’ve also had a deadline for the Open University.  Like buses.  Everything came along in the last week of January!  It’s a relief that everything is out of the way.  I have concluded that there will never be a convenient time for an assignment deadline – that’s just the way these things work. I suppose it’s a relief that January is out of the way.  For me February represents hope that spring is just around the corner and the worst of winter is behind me.  

One thing I have really enjoyed about January this year is no resolutions.  No self imposed restrictions that have become unrealistic 10 days into the new year.  I have also continued to enjoy not being on Facebook.  It has made such a difference to how I feel and has meant that I have engaged more fully with real people in real life, completed more crochet projects and generally felt more calm and grounded.  It’s probably the most hopeful January I’ve had in many years.  

I have made progress on some of the items on my list of 22:

#3    I haven’t bought any new clothes.  I have bought a few things from my local charity shop, but they have been things to alter or to use the fabric for other projects.  I’ve never been able to alter clothes and so have been using charity shop finds to practice on, rather than destroy pieces I already have in my wardrobe.  So far, so good!  The bigger achievement for me is not going shopping in the winter sales.  I do love a bargain and so it’s huge for me to pass them by.  It’s also made me realise just how much I do already have in my wardrobe and so shopping isn’t necessary at all.  There is the obvious bonus of saving money too!

#4  Reduce single use plastics.  I am in awe of just how many toiletries I have stashed in my cupboards – particularly shampoo.  I seem to have a never ending supply of shampoo which I am determined to use prior to replacing them with plastic free versions.  Whilst any plastic isn’t great, recycling empty plastic is preferable to throwing away filled plastic containers.  So, as yet all I have replaced is one handwash, and one shower gel – both with a good old fashioned bar of soap.

#7 Walk 1000 miles.  I am currently 202.1 miles having started on 14th December.  I suspect I might have to amend the challenge at some point in the year, in order to make it more of a challenge than it currently is. 

Walking with Bristol Nordic Walking

#8 Eat one piece of fruit a day.  Another fail!  I have been increasing the amount of fruit I have been eating, but haven’t quite managed that one extra piece per day.  But it’s a target to aim for.  I’ve recently been reading ‘Quite Like a Woman’ by Holly Whitaker and taking on more than one thing at once isn’t advisable, better to change things one at a time – so I shall keep this as a target and hopefully by the end of 2022 this will be a daily habit.

#9 Read 12 Fiction books.  I have achieved this.  In fact, during January I have read several books, although only two were fiction books.  The books I have read are:

  • ‘The Couple at Number 9’ by Clare Douglas – a Crime book.  I enjoyed the read and finished it (which is unusual for me) but not outstanding.  I didn’t put it down and think I must go and read her other books.  
  • ‘Mother Loves Me’ – a psychological thriller and for the first half of the book there were times where I was scared to turn the page, but then it sort of fizzled out towards the end, which was disappointing.
  • ‘Spectacles’ by Sue Perkins.  I love Sue Perkins and so when I saw this on the shelf at the local charity shop I had to buy it.  A great, entertaining read.
  • ‘The Wrong Knickers’ by Bryony Gordon.  Again, I love Bryony Gordon and her posts on Instagram showing a real down to earth approach to life.  So this was a delight to read and a real honest insight into the reality of life as a twenty-something in London.
  • ‘Once Upon a Time in The West Country’ by Tony Hawks.  A gentle story chronically Tony’s move to the West Country.  The best part without doubt is when he takes a pig for a cycle ride across Devon.

#11 Make a dress that fits.  The items of clothing I have altered have helped me with this as I am starting to get a better understanding of the shape of clothes and how they fit together.  I usually just follow the pattern, but my body is a bit of a queer shape, so understanding the construction of clothing is probably going to be as helpful as following a pattern.  That way I can work out what to adjust rather than just blindly follow along.  

#16  365 days of writing.  I have tried.  This is another habit that I have found to be a struggle, especially on days when I have been studying.  The thought of spending more time at my laptop blows my mind a bit.  I did try writing by hand, but find that I think more clearly when I am typing.  I also found some of the prompts a little un-inspiring and so ended up writing waffle. There was one day that I wrote a poem, which I did quite enjoy and came as quite a surprise to me. This is another habit that I hope to have incorporated in to my life on a daily basis come the end of 2022.  Especially as I hope to have started a module on Creative Writing by then!

#17  Listen to 12 New Albums.  My album choice for January was ‘Hand Cannot Erase’ by Steven Wilson.  Which I have quite enjoyed and is certainly different to anything that I would normally choose to listen to.  What has been most interesting has been finding out from different people which albums they recommend.  I’m still on the hunt for about 6 months worth of recommendations, so please do feel free to share your favourites.  If there was one album you think I should listen to, what would it be? 

That’s all of the progress for now! I’m hoping that during February I make a start on some of the other items on the list, specifically cycling from Albufeira to Vilamoura and I am going to try again with the daily fruit and creative writing habits.  

Durdham Downs in the Sunshine