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(Personal) Accountability Report, February 2017

Self Improvement 150At the beginning of the month, I noted that while I hadn’t quite achieved a perfect run on meditating and writing every day I had done pretty well for myself. There were a couple of days with Further Confusion where I didn’t hit my goal and a few more towards the end of the month, but overall I was building a pretty good routine for myself. For February, I had resolved to keep it going — write, meditate and count my calories every day. I had identified a few things that were working to keep me away from the meditation bench, writing desk and calorie counting app, and had developed a few ways to get past those potential blocks. This month, however, was a major stumble. In just about every metric I failed to write or meditate every day, and I was exceedingly spotty with my calorie counting.

Write every day. This just didn’t happen, for a lot of reasons. I seriously got out of the habit here, and I’m not even sure why. I think a lot of it was just…pressure, in general. Work has been a little difficult, and the whole thing with my online math course for school happened, and work on “Stable Love” and the “Gift Exchange” finale proved to be a bit more intimidating than I had bargained for. There were a lot of days this month where I just didn’t have the spoons for writing, even though I should have toughed it out and wrote anyway. It’s been really difficult to balance those kinds of long-term goals against the day-to-day demands of what comes up in the moment. I’m really going to have to find a way to do that, though.

This month, I will set the same goal I did in February: I will write every day, working on either a blog post or a short story. March will be notably busier; my “Argumentation and Debate” class starts up with twice-weekly classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and I’ll be working on my “Elementary Statistics” textbook in an attempt to get ahead of things for that eight week class starting up in April. Somewhere in there, I’ll be hitting up Texas Furry Fiesta — that’s something I’m really looking forward to, but it’s also something that I’ll need to prepare for ahead of time. I’ll need to make sure that my schoolwork and writing is positioned ahead of time so I can enjoy the weekend without worrying about all of the stuff I’ve let slip.

Meditate every day. This also just didn’t happen. There were a few nights of insomnia that made it really difficult to get up in the morning, and there were a few mornings where I just ended up getting distracted by my phone instead of doing the things I should have been doing. So far this month I’ve missed eight days, mostly at the beginning, but it’s still not great. There’s not a whole lot I can do about insomnia, I realize, but I could also make it a priority to meditate as soon as I get home on the days where I’m just not able to do it in the morning.

This month, I’ll set the same goal that I did in February: I will meditate every day for at least fifteen minutes. Ain’t nothing to it but to do it, but I do think that I will need to pay better attention to my bedtime. If possible, it’d be best to avoid a lot of phone usage before bed and if necessary I’ll take melatonin at around 10 pm to reset my body clock. I should be getting tired right around then, and preparing to hit the hay. If I can manage to do that successfully for a while, it’ll be easier and easier to wake up at 5:45, meditate, then get out the door and kick ass at work.

Counting calories every day. This also didn’t happen, and was probably the thing I was worst about over the month. I think I’ve just gotten really bad at updating things through my phone, to be honest. I use it for games and chatting more than anything, and I just don’t think of it as a tool that I can use to be better at holding myself accountable. Being a bit more strict about my phone usage would be a really good thing; making sure that anything I’ve eaten or spent has been logged before I do anything else would be an awesome habit to get into! I am just not sure I’ll be able to pull it off.

In March, I will log every calorie I eat and every dollar I spend through my phone. This will help me reset my habits and idea of what the phone is for, and start pushing me towards making more responsible decisions for it. I’ll be trying to take better care of my diet as well, and maybe reinstalling Fitocracy would be a good way to look up quick bodyweight exercise routines or a circuit of stretches for the days when I’m not running. My phone needs to be more than a mobile entertainment unit or boredom eradicator; I’d love for it to be more of a digital assistant. It can get there, but I have to be a lot more mindful about its usage.

So there we go. In March, I’m still trying to build the writing, meditation and accountability habit. February was a step down from January; there were a lot more things working against me, but that’s likely to be true in March as well. I’ll need to work pretty hard to make sure that the right things are a priority for me this coming month and make better decisions to emphasize that.

I’m curious about what the struggle is like for other people by this time of the year. Are folks still working towards fulfilling their New Year’s Resolutions? Or have we dropped them at this point because real life is way more complicated and antagonistic than we had anticipated? Does anyone have recommendations on what might help build a good habit?

 
 

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(Personal) State of the Jackalope, May 2016

Self Improvement 150The past couple of months have been marked by the death of various tech around the burrow and the attempts to replace them. Now that Bigwig (my desktop) and Hazel-rah (the new laptop) are settled for a while, I can get back to the business of writing and I’m tremendously excited about that.

Hazel-rah is a Dell Inspiron 7559 15″, and it is a beautiful thing — it’s got a 4K HD touchscreen, Intel i7 Core chip, 16G of RAM and a 1TB HDD. The resolution is so high that it actually doesn’t know what to do with some apps or windows where things tend to be small, like my digital Pomodoro timer or the note cards for my Scrivener app but that’s OK. We’re still feeling each other out. I wrote on the laptop most of yesterday, and really loved the experience; I’m getting used to the international keyboard design, which means becoming more precise with touch-typing. That’s never a bad thing, right?

Speaking of writing, here is what I’m working on: building a buffer for the Jackalope Serial Company, starting one long-overdue commission (the prize winner of a fundraising contest for last year’s Clarion Write-A-Thon), editing another long-overdue commission, pre-writing another serial project being written in a shared universe (*really* excited about that!), and brainstorming ideas for submissions to People of Color Destroy Fantasy! and the Black Power POC Superhero anthologies. I’m hoping that I can write three short stories by the end of June while making good progress on the edit for a fourth, all while keeping up with the Patreon and the blog. That’s why I’ve scheduled ten hours of writing a week!

In addition to that, I’ve been forced to learn better time management and organization techniques through work and I am ever-grateful for that. Learning how to juggle multiple responsibilities is not something I’ve ever been very good at, but what the crunch time at the day job has taught me is how to go into each day with eyes open about how things are likely to go and what needs to be accomplished in spite of that. I may not hit the mark every time, but I get a lot closer than I used to and that’s entirely a bonus effect of work craziness. Thanks, day job!

This weekend will be The Overnight, a 16-mile moonlight walk through San Francisco to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues. I’m tremendously excited to be taking part in this, and extremely proud of the money I’ve raised so far — $1,708.00. I didn’t think I would be able to do this well, and I am very grateful to everyone who’s donated so generously already. If you would like to help me bring more attention to this very important issue, please head on over to my Participants’ page and make a donation. Any amount helps, and I would love to raise as much as I can for this.

In order to make sure I was prepared for The Overnight, I’ve really stepped up my running game. Over the past two weeks I’ve run at least three times — short ones (two or three miles) at reasonably easy paces (only 12 minutes per mile) but for me the most important thing is consistency, which I think I’m learning to develop! So that’s excellent. My diet is still a little shaky, but I’ve been taking strides towards eating better. More fruits, vegetables and fiber, fewer candies, carbs and fat. Hopefully this will translate into less of a pear shape, but even if it doesn’t that’s OK. I like what I eat and how much I move now, and hopefully I’ll get to continue on that path.

I think that’s it for me this fortnight: writing, time management, Overnight preparation. What projects are you folks working on? What do you hope to have done by the beginning of next month?

If you’d like to donate to the Overnight, please go to my participant’s page here: http://theovernight.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=18579

And if you would like to hit up my Patreon, which features serialized adult anthropomorphic fiction, go here: https://www.patreon.com/jakebeserials?ty=h.

 
 

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(Writing) New Year’s Resolutions, 2016

Writing 150It feels like I swing back and forth with resolutions from year to year. One year, I’m all business with concrete resolutions that have a pass/fail success condition. Write 6 short stories. Read 10 novels. That sort of thing. The next year, having been beaten down by life and the unexpected, I ease back to more vague resolutions that have more subjective measurements of success. Be kinder to myself. Run more. Things like that.

This looks like it’s going to be a year where I have soft and fuzzy resolutions. It’s not necessarily that I don’t trust myself to make big goals and keep to them; it’s more that I just don’t know what’ll happen this year to take my eye off the ball. The more I settle in to the shape of my life and who I am, the more I realize that planning for November in January is just something that leads to disaster.

So I’d like to make resolutions that help me to refine my focus and habits towards a single goal this year. Instead of promising myself to hit a certain concrete measure of success, I’d like to make promises that help me fulfill my purpose. What is that purpose? To become a better writer, reader and person this year of course.

Finish what you start. This is a big one for me. I’ll often jump into projects easily with grand plans about what the end result will look like, with a vast underestimation of the time and effort it will take to achieve them. Sometimes, I just don’t have the space in my life to do what I would like to do; so it’s better to pick my projects carefully and devote time to making sure they’re finished before moving on to something else. If something that initially grabbed my fancy is really something I should do, then it will wait its turn in line until I get to it. It’s more important that I do what I set out to do. You don’t learn anything from a project until you have a finished one to look back on.

Be more organized. The ADHD diagnosis last year helped me realize that my brain just works in a certain way and I’ll likely never get it to be as clean and straight-forward as other people’s. Thankfully, I can rely on external tools to pick up the slack — notepads to write down bits of information that I need to remember; to-do apps that help me keep track of projects and deadlines to provide structure for my day; rituals that prime me to do certain things in certain spaces. Writing stories isn’t a science, or a project that lends itself to concrete and significant planning. But finally providing structure that allows me to focus on the important work will really help me to be more productive.

Read a LOT more. There are so many great stories out there you guys. SO MANY. As a writer, it’s really important to read. Period. You have to discover the stories you enjoy and the way you love for them to be told to learn more about your craft. A writer who doesn’t like to read is someone who has no idea how to create stories with an audience in mind. Besides, in order to come correct to the broader science-fiction/fantasy community, I’m going to need to know a lot more about what’s out there. In order to be a part of the conversation, I need to know a lot more about what it is. I’ve got a reading list of short stories and novels prepared, and I’ll be working on it throughout the year. I’m really excited to dig into books, comic books and other stories again.

See the spiritual in the mundane. The draw of Buddhism for me is the fact that its entire purpose is to push the mindset of the temple out into the world. For Buddhists, there’s no distinction between the you that’s on the meditation bench and the you that’s answering customer calls at work. Every aspect of your life deserves your complete attention; every interaction you have with someone else is a chance to worship the Divine. As I’m running through my day trying to meet deadlines or do the things I need to, it’s vitally important to remember this. Sometimes, that means slowing down, centering yourself, and doing the best you can to live up to your principles. It’s something I forget in the thick of things, and I’ll try to find ways to remember them this year.

Don’t forget to take stock. This year I’d like to save concrete goals for weekly and monthly check-ins. This week, I’ve set goals to make sure that something goes through the Writing Desk three times; that the first two parts of my serial will be written; and that a review for a furry anthology is finally edited and sent off to another blog for posting. I’d also like to make sure I get in a couple of runs and I keep a tighter leash on what I spend. We’ll see how that goes when I take my pulse for the week next Sunday.

So that’s it: this year, I’m focusing on seeing things through, putting myself in the best position to do that, reading and connecting with people more earnestly, and making sure I’m mindful of who I am and what I’m doing. Concrete goals will be set every week; project updates will happen every month. That’s the plan.

How about you fine folks? Have you set any resolutions for yourself this year? What does a successful 2016 look like for you, creatively?

 

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It’s the End of Summer, Start Falling

Self Improvement 150The summer of 2014 was a pretty crazy one for me! Most of it has been structured around Ryan’s trip to Clarion, the associated Write-A-Thon and all of the lessons I’ve learned since then. It turns out I needed to take a bit of a break from writing after that, just to process what I had done and return to the desk with a greater understanding of what I’m about.

Now that August is behind us and we’re looking ahead to the season of turning leaves, cooler weather and hot drinks, I thought I’d take a little time to think about how I would like to spend it. Where do I want to be by the end of the year? What would I have liked to accomplish?

There are a few things that I’d really like to focus on over the next four months: writing, reading, exercising, eating. You know, the basics. I think of them as the four things that encourage both physical and mental health, two sides of the same coin. You have to exert the proper effort to keep yourself in fighting shape, and you have to make sure that you’re intaking the right things to fuel that effort.

For writing, I’d really like to get more consistent. A friend of mine intimated that his goal for word count is 500 a day, 3000 a week — I think that’s pretty strong, so I’m going to shamelessly steal it. That word count will only count towards short stories (both preparation and writing) and the Pathfinder game I’m running. Blog entries will be their own thing entirely, hopefully focused on over the weekend. Putting in the effort consistently, grinding out the words every day rain or shine, has never been one of my strong suits. I really need to learn how to do this if I’m going to get serious about writing.

For reading, I’d really like to read short stories and novels in both the science-fiction/fantasy and furry fiction “genres”. There’s a ton of great stuff out there in each space, and I think there should be more folks who are really invested in the literary traditions that have been built. I have a unique perspective, and I’d like to get better at thinking about fiction critically. Part of that means reading as many stories as I can and breaking them down to see how they work. I’d like to post critiques and thoughts about these stories as I go, just to get into the habit of talking about them, sharing them with all of you.

For exercising, I really need to get a bit more flexible than I am! I’ll be trying to settle into a routine with body-weight exercises and stretches/yoga so that I’m toning myself and making it easier to get in running and biking. For the next few months I want to focus on cardiovascular health and mobility — those are pretty easy spots to hit with a minimum of, say, going to the gym or needing special equipment. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m going to need to remove as many barriers as possible to getting exercise. Otherwise, it’s just way too easy to make excuses.

Finally, for eating, I’m going to have to retrain my palate towards healthier food. I love carb- and sugar-heavy things at the moment, and that really needs to shift towards fruits, vegetables and lean meats. I don’t think I’ll do anything as crazy as Whole 30 or Paleo right now, but cutting down on carbs — or at least being a lot more mindful about the carbs I do eat — is absolutely necessary. It’s going to suck for a while, but I need to push through that if I ever hope to slim down and get rid of this rather impressive spare tire I’m sporting at the moment.

So those are my goals, in broad terms. I’ll have to develop a plan to make sure I actually stick to those, and that’s fairly exciting. I know I talk a lot about my interest in project management, and it sounds really boring, but there’s this exciting bit of alchemy in taking these vague, broad, big goals — “I have to eat better.” “I have to write more.” — and figuring out how to actually turn them into working, flesh-and-bone plans of action. Drawing a line from desire to doing is pretty satisfying.

So that’s my fall — as usual, putting my head down and trying to calm the mind from being flighty and thoughtless. Every time I put a new plan together, it’s a little stronger. I learn from my mistakes, incorporate more personalized protection against pitfalls, have a bit more willpower. I accept that I might not reach all (or even most) of the goals that I’ve set, but striving for them gets me closer than I would be otherwise.

 
 

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Whatever Your Heart Can Handle

Self Improvement 150As an online rabbit, I know about the importance of running and cardiovascular exercise to my overall health. And I’ve been trying to develop a good running practice for a little over seven years now — first by regular trips on the treadmill and then by carving out good routes around the burrow. As you might guess, it hasn’t gone too well. I’m sidelined by pains and injuries fairly often, and the constant push to run farther, faster makes the practice far less attractive than staying in my warm little hole and helping myself to a glass of wine.

And that’s not even to say that I dislike running — on the contrary, I really love that sweat-soaked rush of endorphins I get after I log a few miles. But there’s not denying that it takes considerable effort — to get myself out the door, to keep pushing when it feels like my lungs are going to burst or my calves are going to snap away from the backs of my knees, to keep running even if it’s cold or rainy, or I’m tired or stressed. Even though I feel great about it afterwards, running is often a deeply unpleasant activity marked by gasping for air, a pounding heart, and persistent pain around the joints and muscles.

In the interest of learning how to run better so that I can actually do it on a regular basis, I signed up for a Fitocracy Fitness Group called “Level Up Your Running”. I have to say, it’s already making a difference. We’re only three weeks into a twelve-week program, and my relationship with running is already changing. I really believe the key to this change relies on changing up my pace, and the expectation of what I should be doing whenever I lace up the running shoes.

My trainer is a big believer in pushing yourself, but not too much. She believes you should listen to your body while you’re running; if your focus starts to narrow to simply what’s in front of you and you can’t actually talk because you’re too busy panting then it’s no good. Instead, you should be able to carry a conversation when you run, and you should have your full range of vision. You should actually have time to notice your surroundings.

For an out-of-shape asthmatic rabbit like me, that means running ridiculously slow. If you were to see me out on the street, you’d see this dumpy guy taking quick steps (180 per minute, thank you very much) that are so short it looks like he’s shuffling. He glances around, occasionally taking a look at his watch to check his heart rate (which should be around 150 or so). It barely looks like exercise, but it is. And that’s the point. It’s not graceful, it’s not efficient…but it IS fun. At the end of my runs I get that nice rush of endorphins and I think “I could have done more. I can’t wait to run again.” As much as I love running, I never in my life thought I would say something like that.

The key, of course, has been pacing. I’ve had to let go of the standards I thought I should be maintaining for now. Gone is the idea that I should be running a ten-minute mile, or that I should be working up to four miles every single time I run. Right now I’m going a mile at a time, at around fifteen minutes a mile. It’s incredibly slow, and the running time is incredibly short. But for the first time in a very long time, the simple act of running is a thing I enjoy. That’s worth looking goofy and taking a huge step back from what I’ve been doing before.

Of course this philosophy works away from exercise, too. So many of us load up our plate with goals designed to push us as far as we can go because we think that’s what we need to do. But we burn out, or we start falling short, and our hobbies become these immense sources of guilt. To extend the running analogy, our hearts are beating way too fast, we can never catch our breath, and it’s only a matter of time before we blow a knee or an ankle under the stress.

The Art of Manliness has a great article on this that I think I’ve mentioned before. The 20 Mile March approach to goals prizes consistency over effort, so that you end up leaving quite a bit in your tank most days just so you don’t tire yourself out. There are going to be days where you don’t feel like doing the work to get yourself closer to your goals. There are going to be days where you can’t put in the work, for whatever reason. If you set a goal for whatever it is that’s low and easily reproducible, you can overcome most resistances to it or catch up easily whenever you’ve missed a day. That way, you can build a lasting habit that’s low stress and actually enjoyable. Setting a “maximum” limit for yourself each day is a great thing to do — it leaves you with the feeling that you could have done more, that you WANT to do more. And that leaves you actually looking forward to the next session.

So, if you’re trying to develop a habit but haven’t been able to make it stick, here’s what I would recommend: pull back. If you’re trying to write every day, make the goal so low it’s impossible not to do — a hundred words a day, or maybe even one sentence every day. Stick to that, even when you’re tempted to do more. You’ll find yourself doing more than cultivating a habit — you’ll cultivate the hunger to keep doing it, which is far more valuable.

 

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My Whole 30 – Week 2

Self Improvement 150I’ve been on the Whole30 adventure for two weeks. I’m really hesitant to call it a “diet,” because that comes with all kinds of baggage I don’t want. A diet is something you’re on for a brief amount of time, drop a bunch of weight, and then gain it all back again when you hop off of it. Labelling this a diet feels like dooming myself to an express ride right back up to 190 pounds by May, and I’d like to use this as a springboard for healthier eating, a better relationship with food, and a strong exercise regimen as well.

Anyway, the worst of the adjustment period is over — the second week was MUCH easier than the first. Now that I’ve moved past the horrific cravings for sugar and baked goods I find them a lot easier to resist. There was one day last week where a flood of cookies rolled through the office, with a Girl Scout selling her wares in its wake. Besides a five-minute spazz-out with coworkers about our favorite kinds of cookies, I was pretty cool about it. Yeah, of course I wanted them. But it was easy to make the choice not to have them and put it out of my mind.

That’s really been the theme of the week in general; I’ll see someone eating a cheeseburger or a pastry in a movie or commercial and thing “God, I want that. It looks AMAZING.” But that’s about where it ends. I can let myself have the thought, feel the desire rise up in my heart…and let it pass. I don’t have to act on it. And when I DON’T act on it…nothing happens. My life isn’t any worse, I’m not any less happy, I’m not driven to distraction.

I can’t tell you how huge this is for me. For most of my life I’ve been a creature of appetite. I’ve learned to deal with a lot of things by indulging in the things I want. I’m a huge stress-eater with a very large sweet tooth. Cookies and candy were my way of dealing with a stressful day, or celebrating a good one. I feel like I can actually deal with not having them when things get hairy for the first time in a long time.

The next two weeks of the Whole30 experience is when everything is supposed to fall into place; the cravings subside, and you’re left with clarity and energy. I’m not sure how much I buy into that whole thing, but I have noticed that it’s easier to get up in the mornings now and my energy is steadier throughout the day. It’s easier for me to deal with hunger pangs when I have them, and I have a much better sense of when I really need to eat. My palate has adjusted to the point where fruit is sweet *and* satisfying, which is pretty awesome. I’m rediscovering my great love for apples, raspberries and grapes.

Ryan and I have settled a bit into a good cooking groove, though we don’t do anything particularly fancy. I’ve settled on season turkey burger patties and grape/cherry tomatoes for breakfast, tuna salad and a light salad for lunch, and a big hunk of meat and yam for dinner. It’s not the most exciting or creative of diets, but it works for us. When we need a snack, we break for apples or mixed nuts. The friends who’ve roped us into doing this are far more daring, trying and swapping Whole30 recipes they’ve found on the internet. We don’t quite have the materials for it, though — no food processor, slow cooker, coconut oil, that sort of thing. Procuring them would take a pretty big trip, and to be honest we’ve, uh, prioritized our time and energy elsewhere.

The next two weeks we’ll be focusing a bit more on exercise — we’ve gotten our dinners taken care of pretty much until next weekend. That feels pretty nice, I must say.

Long story short, it’s really wonderful leaving bad habits behind, feeling like I have a measure of control over previously automatic processes, and working to develop better habits later on down the line. We’ll see if I’m still holding the line on this next week!

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Diet and Exercise, Self-Reflection

 

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All I Can Eat

Exercise 150It was Super Bowl Sunday, and I was riding the high of a dominant performance by the Ravens. I admit that I may have had a rather heavy Baltimore Bang or two, and I was in that state of mind where you’re friends with the world, and you can do anything. Our host brings up this new diet he’s starting with a friend called the Whole30. I ask him about it, and the more he talks the more intrigued I am. Sensing my interest, he goes in for the kill.

“You should do it,” he says. And I respond with how hard it would be, how I couldn’t live without everything I’d have to give up, and the usual things you do when someone tells you to join their diet. Because he’s efficient and evil, he quickly pushes past those defenses and before I know it, I’m saying yes to this. A couple days later, Ryan decides he’ll join me as a show of solidarity. And on Tuesday, February 5th we ditched processed foods, grains, dairy, legumes and added sugars for 30 days.

When my head hits the pillow tonight, I’ll have quit all of the above for a full week. This was a very difficult thing to do, but (without trying to sound too cheesy) it was made infinitely better with Ryan by my side. We suffered through sugar and caffeine withdrawals together, learned about how our bodies regulate according to our fuel sources together, and are discovering how to make simple but healthy food together. If he hadn’t had my back in this, I’m almost positive I would have quit — even with the built-in support network of friends going through the same thing. It’s way too easy to run back to the things that give you comfort, even when they’re bad for you. On Tuesday I was fuzzy-headed and weird, and on Wednesday I was depressed, exhausted, and aching. Without Ryan to tell me to eat that apple, or finish my fish, or actually TRY the yam, I would have run screaming towards the nearest McDonald’s well before now.

A supportive spouse can get you through some incredibly difficult times. So thank you, Ryan. You’ve made the unbearable bearable enough that I can take interest in this. I love you.

The first week, according to the Whole30 website, is probably going to be the roughest as your body tries to adjust to the complete cessation of a certain type of fuel and the sudden shift to a rather different type of fuel. There’s no question in my mind now that my body processes grains and sugars differently from meat and vegetables, though I’m not sure I buy that this is the absolute best way to be eating. According to the Whole30 guys, food should:

A. Promote a healthy physiological response.
B. Promote a healthy psychological response.
C. Promote a healthy gut, and
D. Not encourage inflammation/irritation of your digestive system or suppress the immune system.

If food fails in even one category, it’s out. And according to them, that pretty much leaves meats, eggs, certain nuts, vegetables and fruits. Protein should be from animals that live as close to their natural lifestyle as possible (wild-caught seafood that’s sustainably fished, organic and pasture-fed beef, natural-fed chicken, etc.). Vegetables and fruits should be local, organic if possible, and nutrient-dense. Whole30 comes across as a cousin to the Paleo Diet, more or less, but what immediately grabbed me was its focus on quality foods and attention to detail. A lot of the staples of the Whole30 diet — especially cooking fats, like coconut oil and clarified butter or ghee — is hard to find inside your neighborhood grocery store, but we’ve been making do with olive oil when we need something like that.

True to their word, the first week was really difficult. Ryan and I aren’t used to cooking in, so there was a bit of culture shock as we moved away from TV dinners and restaurants to fresh produce and lean meats. I think it was this double-whammy of a severe lifestyle change and body re-adjustment that nearly killed us this first week. We scrambled a LOT of the time, and a lot of the food we made was just what could be thrown together quickly and would relieve that constant, gnawing hunger in our stomachs. We’re still figuring out our dietary needs, how much food we should eat, and how to make food that we like and is tasty. Fear has kept us from trying a lot of spices, especially after we found out that most of our Celestial Seasonings teas were out because of the soy lecithin additive.

If I had to ding the diet for anything, it would be the black-and-white tone of it. I appreciate what Whole30 aims to do, and I dig the radical ‘reset’ of what you eat. But it’s so ridiculously restrictive that it’s very difficult to adhere to it unless you prepare all three meals a day yourself, and that takes a large amount of time and money to pull off. I’m away from home 12 hours a day during the week, so my time is fairly precious. Devoting even an hour a night to making dinner, eating it and cleaning the dishes when I’m done is a pretty big investment, but there it is.

Most of my time this past week has been taken up with food; researching what’s OK, figuring out how to prepare dishes without sauces that include sugar or butter, how to make things that can be reheated at work or keeps well cold. Most of my willpower has been taken up with trying to build this new habit — usually when I get a craving, I feed it. Having to check that impulse, directly confront and deny it isn’t something I’m used to doing, and it takes a good bit of brain power to do so.

Because of the time, mental and financial commitment, Whole30 has pretty much squeezed out my ability to do most other things. I haven’t written significantly yet this month, and what I have written has all been dedicated to my Pathfinder game. I haven’t exercised yet, either; between my mood and my energy levels, there’s no way I’m hitting the gym. In fact, I think the only thing in our house that’s been given significant attention is the kitchen, which has been better stocked and cleaner than it’s been in years.

So, one week down, three and some change to go. This weekend I prepared a lot of food ahead and developed a plan to make sure breakfast and lunch could be made as automatically as possible. Hopefully that will make it easier on us through the week so that cooking in isn’t quite as big a time commitment. Now that the worst of our body adjustments are behind us, hopefully we’ll have more energy to do other things as well.

A few things I’ve learned already is that I have the capacity to make a plan and stick to it, and just knowing that gives me more motivation to do so elsewhere. Life really is a series of choices, and you have to train yourself to make the right ones consistently. I’ve also learned the simple pleasure of making a meal that tastes good; I’ve always liked to cook and even though I’ve bitched about how much time it takes before I’m enjoying the time I spend in the kitchen for the most part. Even after the Whole30 diet ends and I can eat grains and cheeses again, I’ll try to keep that momentum for cooking in. And this might finally be the thing that breaks me of my sweet tooth. I’ll always have cravings for sugar, but it’s nice to know that I can steer away from it most of the time if I really set my mind to it.

Week two awaits: according to the Whole30 timeline, your energy stabilizes but the cravings kick in big time. By filling our time with a bit more exercise and other productive pursuits, I’m hoping we’ll nip those in the bud. We’ll see.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Diet and Exercise, Self-Reflection

 

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