The first part of the challenge involved adopting a healthier diet, aided by a suggested meal plan put together by chef Natasha Corrett. Now, I realise this is probably going to get me some side-eye, but this was the part of the challenge I was most nervous about, because I’m honestly not much of a foodie – and, as anyone who knows me will confirm, I’m definitely no cook. In fact, left to my own devices, I’d probably end up living off toast and pasta most of the time – and by “pasta” I mean “noodles”. And by “noodles”, I mean, “ain’t nothin’ wrong with a good ol’ Pot Noodle: it’s what got me through the university years, after all!” Ahem.
It’s not that I don’t LIKE food, obviously – I most definitely do. A LOT, as it happens. As much as I enjoy eating, however, I don’t really find food particularly interesting, and I have fairly simple tastes, which means I can be almost as happy with a hastily thrown-together sandwich as some fancy meal. Yes, I know, I know…
Luckily for me, Terry DOES enjoy cooking, and he’s also very health-concious (having a kidney transplant will do that for you), which means our diet actually isn’t particularly bad most of the time. We tend to eat a lot of fresh fruit and veg, and very little meat, so our meals themselves are generally pretty healthy. Where it all falls down for me, however, is snacking – and specifically snacking on sugary things. I actually don’t think I have a VERY sweet tooth (When picking desserts, I’ll go for the cheeseboard over the cakes every time), but I’m one of those people who just can’t resist chocolate, and whose ‘goodie bowl’ is always filled with treats. I eat a lot of these through sheer habit, really: I KNOW I don’t actually need them, but I can’t seem to stop myself snacking on them, especially if I’m vegging out in front of the TV, or otherwise unoccupied. One of the most dangerous times for me, for instance, is when I’m in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil: well, we all know a watched one never DOES, don’t we, so rather than just standing there staring at it, I’ll find myself rummaging through the kitchen cupboards and telling myself that if I just have ONE square of chocolate, it won’t really count, will it?
It DOES count, though – and one of the ways this plan helped me most was by forcing me to eat three meals a day, which helped fill me up, and make me less likely to want to snack. Oh yeah: I don’t normally eat three meals a day – did I mention that? I always have the best of intentions, but the fact is, when you work from home, your schedule gets thrown all out of whack, and some days I’ll realise it’s almost dinner time, and I still haven’t eaten lunch. Whoops. As for breakfast: forget it. I’ve never been a breakfast-eater: I just don’t feel hungry first thing in the morning, so actually getting up and making food was a big change for me, as bizarre as I know that must sound to some of you. I’d been hoping the weather would be nice enough to sit outside every morning and eat something – basically the only time I DO tend to eat breakfast is when I’m on holiday, and can sit and savour it in the sunshine, but HAHA, AS IF.
Anyway! As I was saying, the plan required me to eat three meals per day, like a normal person, and I found that made me less likely to want to snack (I know, WHO KNEW?), so I’m considering that a small victory. As for the meals themselves, I have to admit that I didn’t stick rigidly to the plan for the whole week: we eat with each of our families once per week, so we went off-plan on those days, but the meals we did have were pretty tasty, and much more filling than I was expecting them to be. The first dish I’ve photographed is a wild rocket pesto quinoa sweet potato salad (with added beetroot salad, made by Terry), which was really light and fresh, and which prompted us to add some quinoa to our shopping list for next week. The second one, meanwhile, is a butternut frittata, which was probably my favourite of the week – and, again, more filling than I’d been expecting.
The next part of the programme was exercise, and, as you can see, I was given a sample workout to follow, on a “one day on, one day off” basis. These are all exercises which can be done at home, and I’ll confess here that this is the type of workout I find hardest to motivate myself to do. One of the reasons I like running above any other type of exercise is the fact that, as long as I can get myself out of the door, I know I have to finish the run: well, I can’t exactly get half-way round my route, and then lie down for a quick nap, can I? This is also why, when I used to go to the gym, I preferred to take classes, rather than try to use the gym itself: when I only have myself to answer to, I find it WAY too easy to get distracted and stop what I’m doing, and that was definitely the case here. I was pleasantly surprised to find I didn’t struggle too much with the actual exercises, so I’m hopefully not quite as unfit as I thought I was, but I did struggle with motivation, which is always a challenge for me.
The way I managed to get around this was by doing my best to use all of that “dead time” I mentioned above, when I’d normally be snacking. If I know I’m about to spend the next hour doing something I don’t enjoy, I’ll procrastinate until bedtime, basically, so rather than setting aside time and telling myself I had to do all of the exercises at the same time, I tried to fit them in throughout the day. So I’d do one set of exercises while I was waiting for the kettle to boil, say, another set right before my shower, and so on and so forth. This is actually something I’ve been trying to do for a couple of weeks now: I have an app on my phone which chimes every hour, and when it does, I get up from my desk and go and move around for a while, even if it’s just putting on some music and dancing for ten minutes. I find that easier to maintain than trying to force myself to spend an entire hour working out, so I’m aiming to try to continue with that, and to add some longer runs back into my week, too.
Finally, skincare: which was the bit I was most looking forward to, given that I’m enormously lazy, and this was the bit that only required me to pamper myself. Yay! So, as I mentioned in my previous post, I was sent a selection of products from Aveeno’s Daily Moisture Range, namely the Body Wash, Creamy Oil, Daily Moisturising Lotion and Hand Cream. These all use natural ingredients like oatmeal and almond oil, and the thing I like most about these products is that they somehow just feel like they’re doing you some good when you use them. Does that make sense? On second thoughts, don’t answer that…
My favourite of the four was the Creamy Oil, which not only smells gorgeous (I’ve actually ended up using far more of it than was strictly necessary, just because I was enjoying the scent), but which also absorbs quickly enough that I don’t have to deal with the dreaded sticky sensation I hate so much. The Body Wash, meanwhile, has also been on constant rotation, and as I always forget to use lotions after I shower, I hit upon the genius idea of keeping the lotions in the shower, too, so they’re right in front of me, and I’m much less likely to forget about them. GAME CHANGER, people.
And the results of all of this healthy living?
Well, my skin feels fantastic, first of all. I use moisturiser on my face pretty religiously, and I’ve also been remembering to use oil on my hands and cuticles too. The skin on my body, however, gets horribly neglected, mostly because I’ll completely forget to use all of the products I have stashed in the bathroom cabinet, so this week has served as a timely reminder that it really doesn’t take much to get my legs feeling nice and soft again. Seriously, Amber, note to self: actually USE that creamy oil you love so much – it’s really not that hard!
As for the rest of me, well, my muscles are definitely aching after all of those ‘renegade rows’ (Oh, those renegade rows!), but I’m taking that as a sign that I’m doing something right for once, and just enjoying the novelty of ending each day without feeling guilty about not having left my desk for most of it. I still have those few post-vacation pounds to lose, and I’d imagine cheating on the healthy eating plan by eating out a couple of times during the week didn’t help in that respect. Most of all, though, I think what I’ll be mostly taking from this challenge is the knowledge that I feel better about myself when I actually DO something to try to improve my lifestyle, and be a bit healthier. This isn’t exactly new information for me, obviously, but as I said in my last post on this challenge, I’m the Queen of Procrastination (No, really, I am: you should all be bowing down to me right now…), and I find it really easy to convince myself that I can’t possibly fit in a quick workout, and that I absolutely deserve that bar of chocolate, because I’ve been working sooooo hard all week.
The thing is, though, NOT working out doesn’t make me feel good, and as for the chocolate … well, it DOES make me feel good, to be perfectly honest, but only while I’m eating it, and after that it’s back to feeling guilty, and then not doing anything to change that. So, going forward, I probably won’t stick to this exact eating plan, and I can’t promise to keep up the renegade rowing either, but I will be trying my best to continue to make healthy eating and exercise a part of my lifestyle: fingers crossed!
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