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!

Healthy living, Mindfulness, reflection, Well-being

What are your non-negotiables?

I’ve recently finished reading ‘Quit Like a Woman‘ by Holly Whitaker and I can highly recommend reading it.

It’s primarily about quitting alcohol and although I don’t drink a vast amount, I have struggled to knock drinking on the head altogether, there are moments where I still get sucked in.  Beyond that there were several recommendations that I felt would work in my life in general, one of which was to identify my three non-negotiables.  Those 3 things that I will do every day, even the worst of days, no matter what.  

1.  Exercise.  For me this is huge.  Even if all I can manage is a walk.  We were sitting at home recently and I was feeling guilty about leaving husband to do decorating on his own, again.  But he said he’d realised how much difference exercise does make to my overall well-being and so missing out on my Nordic Walking in this instance was non-negotiable.  That had to happen.  Exercise is the one thing that I prioritise in my diary.  No matter what.

2.  No alcohol.  This ties in with #1 and it absolutely has to be a non-negotiable.  If I drink I feel dreadful.  Even the tiniest bit makes me feel dreadful. Just this past weekend I had a couple of classes of wine with dinner.  During the night the crushing headache arrived.  At one point as the headache moved down my face, into my sinuses and my teeth I began to wonder if I was actually having a stroke.  As a consequence, I missed my Monday morning exercise class.  Instead I slept.  Then I  feel even more dreadful.  Which makes me more tempted to drink, or eat sweets.  Which makes me feel a bit more dreadful and so I carry on in this downward spiral.  The exercise goes out of the window and it takes a mammoth effort to get back on track again.  So better all round if I just don’t bother with the alcohol in the first place.

3.  Meditation.  I’ve always been a bit slapdash when it comes to meditation.  I do it for a few days, then not.  I’m making a concerted effort to make meditation a daily commitment and making it a non-negotiable will help with that.  Much like exercise, it makes a big difference to me.  I normally aim for 15 minutes twice a day.  Sometimes I just sit in the quiet, sometimes I use a guided meditation, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t really matter too much how I do it!  But it does have a really positive impact on how I feel during the day.

Besides these 3  non-negotiables, the book recommends a toolkit of about 10 things that you can draw upon to help you navigate those tricky moments.  I have:

1.  A cup of tea.  Very British I know, but you can’t beat a good old cup of tea.  I suspect because it simply makes you stop for a while and address what is causing the problem.  Or to sit quietly and just reflect.  Or sit and look out of the window at the world going by for a moment.

2.  My husband.  He is very good in the moment.  I can tell him what is going around in my head.  90% of the time he tells me it’s stupid and 80% of the time he’d be right.  But I know that I can safely say what’s in my head, as bonkers as it may be.  Just being able to say it out loud in a safe place gives me space to realise just how bonkers the thoughts are and it is the first step towards finding a solution.  

3.  My sister.  After husband has mopped up the initial anxiety driven trauma, my sister is superb at providing impartial, practical solutions.  No judgement, no making me feel stupid, just straight forward practical solutions. 

4. Tapping (EFT) This is a relatively new find for me and I’ll admit I thought it was totally out there the first time I tried it or heard about it.  It works with the central nervous system and the meridians. Basically you tap on various points on your face and body whilst repeating certain phrases and the combination of both helps restore your equilibrium.  

5.  Mindful Moments.  I’ve set a series of alarms on my phone for every 2 hours.  When it goes off I stop for a few minutes.  If I’m out and about I tend to do a few minutes heart coherence.  Or if I’ve been sitting studying for a while I use it as the opportunity to walk and stretch a little.  The idea being that it brings to back to the present.  Initially I thought it would be an intrusive nightmare, but it’s really quite pleasant!

6.  Deleting Facebook.  This probably sounds like a bizarre one.  But I cannot tell you the difference it has made to me, not being on Facebook and avoiding that particular rabbit hole.  I don’t know what it is about my brain that means I can’t take part in this particular activity – but I can’t.

7.  Making things Anything really!  There is nothing that I lose myself in quite like making something.  It absorbs me totally.  I do want to make a dress that fits and I have a bit of a bizarre obsession with crochet scarves and wraps at the moment. I always have something on the go, so whenever I find myself feeling a bit low, or there is potential for me to get sucked into something that might not be so good for me, then I can pick up whatever it is I am making and sit enjoying the process for a while. I have the world’s longest list of things I want to make so it’s unlikely I’ll ever find myself at a loose end.

8.  Music.  As the song says ‘Through my times of trouble my music sees me through’.  Listening to music, playing an instrument.  I don’t play my clarinet as often as I should, but there is nothing quite like it for bringing me into the present moment.  I’m trying to widen my music repertoire and am listening to different types of music, but I have to say that in the moment you can’t beat a bit of Katy Perry!

9.  Sitting on a bench. This is a topical one!  Ricky Gervais has just placed 15 benches around the UK based on the one he uses in the show Afterlife.  The theory being that you sit there and someone comes to chat to you and might just save your day.  I don’t very often get to sit and talk to anyone, but quite regularly a short walk to a local bench is all I need to settle my mind.  To sit quietly and watch the ocean, or watch people walking by, to hear the birds singing, the children laughing.  You can’t beat a good old bench.

10.  Other people.  This is a bit of a catchall.  I don’t have a ‘crew’ as such and I am still trying to find out what works best for me.  One thing that did resonate with me from the book is that different people will come into your life at different times.  Some stay, some don’t, some you may not ever meet in real-life.  But this is an evolving thing.  There have been many people over the years that have made a difference to me.  In the past year it has definitely been my physio and chiropractor, but I can see how I may move on from them now that physically, I feel so much better.

So there we have it.  My 3 non-negotiables and my toolkit of 10.  These may both evolve over time, but what I have found interesting is that it helps to be prepared.  It helps to be consistent and practice techniques day in and day out.  I appreciate that for many people this is not even necessary.  What I do know is that starting my day with non-negotiable #1, the chances of me even needing to delve into the toolkit of 10 is significantly reduced.  

Exercise, Healthy living, reflection, Well-being

March in Review

Another month closer to 50!  Two more months to go.

At the beginning of March I set myself three goals:

  1. Not drink alcohol
  2. Cut out sweet treats
  3. Try to increase activity levels

It would be fair to say that I achieved mixed results!

With regards to the alcohol, I did manage to cut down the amount of wine that I was drinking.  As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a great wine guzzler, but I don’t handle it particularly well.  I wanted to see if it did have that much of a difference on my general health and pain levels.  It does definitely have an impact.  Does it cause my pain?  I don’t think so.  But if I am in pain, it really doesn’t make things better – it makes painful days more painful but it’s not the sole cause of the pain.  It also makes hot flushes hotter!  During the two weeks that I had no wine at all the hot flushes didn’t stop – but they were noticeably less intense.  We are also heading into summer here in Albufeira and I do know that I don’t manage wine with the heat, I get very dehydrated very quickly and so would say that from here on in, I am unlikely to drink much by way of wine. Equally, if I am going out for an evening for a meal with friends, I won’t totally avoid wine, but drinking wine for drinking’s sake is at an end.  One thing that I have realise is how much sitting still causes pain, particularly through the night.  I suspect in the past I have blamed the wine – but in actual fact it is sitting still for prolonged periods that is the main culprit.

Cutting out sweet treats was an epic fail.  There is no other way to describe it!  On top of the odd twix here and there, I also did some baking during March.  I do love baking but find eating it all a bit overwhelming.  This month, however, I had the opportunity to bake and share my offerings which made it all a bit more manageable.  As we leave lockdown, I expect the opportunities to bake will stop – but having said that, the fabulous cake shop in Albufeira may well re-open and it would be a shame not to partake!  So, I am going to try a bit harder this month to cut down on the number of sweet treats I eat.  Obviously, it is Easter this weekend and so I will have a chocolate egg to savour, but once that has gone, I will try really hard not to snack on chocolate so much and save it for special occasions.

Increasing exercise was a bit of a mixed bag.  I did complete the 500 sun salutation challenge, which was a real plus considering I only managed 10 last year.  I’d like to say I enjoyed it, but that would be a lie!  I’m not even that sure I learned all that much about myself either.  By the end of the month, I was finding breathing with the moves easier and I am definitely a bit more flexible, but that’s pretty much where the benefits have ended.  Having said that, I may well carry on doing 10 a day for the next while just to see if there is a difference over time.  I did find that doing 10 sun salutations in the afternoon is a great energy boost and lifts you out of the post lunch slump really effectively.

I’ve also maintained 15 to 30 minutes a day of yoga and started doing the Lift Program for prolapse with Fem Fusion Fitness.  I have had a prolapse for about 3 years or so and am in a bit of a cycle.  I do the exercises and get to the point where I feel really well, then don’t bother with the exercises, the prolapse gets worse again and so I return to the exercises!  I should just learn to carry on doing the exercises!  It does also really help my back as it also strengthens my core.  Not in the six-pack version of core exercises, but the deep core muscles that help to keep the pelvis stable.  I’ve reached the point where I am doing 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, including the yoga.

Earlier in the month, I did have a bit of a set-back.  A week where I just wasn’t really able to motivate myself, much beyond the sun salutations and the 15 minutes of yoga in the morning.  It wasn’t until I started to come out of the slump that I realised quite how bad it had been.  But I did keep on going with the sun salutations, which I am quite proud of and I didn’t totally give up.  However, my daily walks did go out of the window and I haven’t started them back up as yet.  Hopefully, during April I will be able to reintroduce those and get back to achieving 11,000 steps per day on top of my other exercise.  It’s taken me a long time to reach the point that I am able to accept set-backs and to listen to my body rather than force it to complete things that it just isn’t well enough to do.  I suspect many of the problems I have with my back are exacerbated by running in the past, as I forced my body to compete in a sport it wasn’t really capable of!

Besides that, I have made progress in other areas and as I leave lockdown, I am very excited about what lies ahead of me.  In the past I often said I would just like the world to stop so that I could get off and rest for a while.  Covid has allowed that to happen and I feel in a much stronger place mentally as the world opens up again and I have a better understanding of what matters to me.

I have started another degree with the Open University.  I’m currently doing an introductory module with a view to studying Classical Studies, however, I might change that to English Literature as I am enjoying that aspect of the course far more than I anticipated

I have also just started Portuguese lessons.  My language skills are fairly ropey, but I am quite determined to learn and hope that hearing the language on a daily basis will help me to pick it up sooner rather than later.  

Finally, I am hoping to start doing some voluntary work at a local charity shop.  It’s taken quite a while for me to reach this point but finally I am starting to regain the zest for life that has been missing.  There is so much I want to try and get involved with and slowly I am making steps in the right direction.  

I am very excited to see where I am by the end of April!