They say it takes 21 days for a habit to form and with that in mind, I set about trying to form new healthier lifestyle habits. I am notoriously bad about bed times; it’s nothing for me to fall into bed around 3 am having spent – wasted – several hours on the Internet playing word games or doing jigsaw puzzles. The knock-on effect of this, of course, is that when I wake up at 8 am I haven’t had enough sleep. And that, in turn, impacts on how my day then pans out.
I’ve been overweight for the last twenty years of my life and it’s now reached – to my mind – seriously problematic proportions. I have had and still have various illnesses which I have always used as an excuse to not exercise but the truth is, I am bone idle. I spend a lot of my day on my computer writing. I have a website on cats which I created in 2002 and I update it monthly. I am very fortunate in that I now have a team of reliable writers but I still have to write content myself, some of which requires research (another excuse to spend time idling away the hours!)
I am also in the AF (Almost Finished) stage of writing several books: one is charting my journey of living with leukaemia; the others are cat related. I also edit manuscripts for other people – so you can see, how my day is structured: mainly sitting down at the computer.
In the evenings I watch television and knit.
Whether it is because of my weight, or because of the lack of exercise, but I now find myself in the unenviable position of not being able to walk very far without needing to stop and rest. I certainly can’t walk and talk.
Then there is my diet. I have been seeing a dietician at a local hospital for many years now and at the same time, for a short while, I also saw a nurse at my doctor’s surgery. As a matter of sense, I have to keep a food diary and the dietician at the hospital would usually nod his head and say something like: ‘well, you know, Pauline, you could try swapping this croissant for a bagel and you’ve saved a few calories.’ But the nurse at the doctor’s surgery would say: ‘you’re not supposed to eat croissants! Do you know how much fat they contain?’ And then, continuing her journey through my now book of ‘sin’ she would point out all the things I shouldn’t be eating. I likened the whole experience to ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop.’ This only served to demoralise me and I defiantly ate a cheese cake (the ones with the coconut strands on the top) to serve her right! Who was I kidding? It was me that suffered, ultimately, although I did enjoy the cake.
My diet, on the whole, isn’t too bad so my dietician at the hospital tells me. My biggest problem, and I do acknowledge this, is that I live a very sedentary lifestyle. And that is my downfall. I just don’t move around enough. I don’t walk anywhere any more. After breakfast each day, once I’m washed and dressed, unless I am going out somewhere, I head straight for my ‘office’, switch on the computer and I’m there for the duration. Toilet breaks, coffee breaks, lunch break (usually Rivita with Philadelphia light cream cheese) are the only snippets of time away until it’s time for my evening meal. Then I come back downstairs and cook something before heading to the sofa for a night of NCIS or a good film and knit with my mackerel tabby cat, Casey alongside me, dozing contentedly.
I had lunch with a friend of mine whose manuscript I’ve been editing. He’s known me for nearly 30 years when I was a size 12, 35 year old personal secretary to one of his ‘underlings’ in the District Works Department of a now-defunct hospital. I was bemoaning my lack of mobility and inability to do certain things and he mentioned setting myself a challenge for the next 21 days to walk to the letter box and back each day and every couple of days to try to see if I could walk just a little bit further.
The letter box isn’t miles away. I’m not sure of the yardage or how many metres it is from my house but in the great scheme of things, it was something I could manage without probably needing a lie down afterwards and a cold sherry to pick me up. I had to spend a day thinking about the challenge, of course. I couldn’t just launch myself into it, like maybe doing a parachute jump – I had to psyche myself up for it, I had to prepare, get my mind into the right frame before starting. After all, this was going to be the Launchpad for the rest of my life. It was heady stuff.
Me being me, I don’t do things by halves. I mean, what’s the point of just walking up and down the road if I’m not going to do something WHILE I’m walking up and down the road? There has to be a point to it. So my first task was to find a reason. And I decided that as I was going to walk as far as the post box every day I might as well write a letter to someone so that the purpose for going as far as the post box was to actually post a letter. Job done.
Next, I knew that a five minute walk there and back would hardly make a dent in the dimpled backside I now sported so I had to make a conscious decision about what to do to complement the walk. So I looked at my food diary and made another decision. I would seriously reduce my portion sizes – not that I thought I ate too much anyway – but just having THREE Rivitas instead of four might make a smidgeon of difference over time. At least I hoped it would. I would make other changes of course; reducing Rivita is hardly going to make headline news. “WOMAN LOSES FIVE STONE WHILE WALKING TO THE POST BOX – TO POST A LETTER EACH DAY – AND ONLY EATING THREE RIVITAS!!” No, somehow I don’t think that’s going to cut the mustard.
And I vowed to move around more. Like a lot of people, I tend to put things on the stairs to carry them up in one go to save several unnecessary journeys. My friend I had lunch with suggested – that whilst that is a good idea – to help burn extra calories that I make several trips up and down the stairs carrying just one item at a time. My stairs are very steep and running isn’t something I’ve done for a long time but it made sense to me to see if I could put a bit more effort into the task.
And finally, exercise and reducing my food intake is hardly going to make any difference if I don’t get a decent night’s sleep. So to that end, I made a pact with myself: I had to be in bed before midnight and to avoid any unintentional slipping up, I banned myself from going on the computer during the evening. Once I came downstairs to prepare my evening meal – that was it. I was not allowed to go back on the computer for any reason, no matter how serious or feeble the excuse might have been.
I have to tell you that I am not a dieting expert, only that I’m an overweight woman of ‘senior’ years who wants to live longer and more healthily. Before you start any diet or exercise regime, it’s always best to discuss it with your doctor or health practitioner first.
So ‘21 days to a new you’ is a three-pronged attack: moving around a bit more; eating a bit less and getting a good night’s sleep.
Let’s get started.