Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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#mayhealth

Where the hell did April go1? It seems that tomorrow is the last day of the fourth month of the year. Which means that we are just one day away from the May Health Challenge!

As you may recall2, last year some fine Guelphites put out a challenge to anyone who is awesome enough to take up said challenge. And that challenge is to set a small, but challenging, health-related goal for the month of May. And then tell people about it – because research shows that publicly stating your goals makes it more likely that you’ll stick to them. Last year, my challenges were to (a) eat breakfast every day3 and (b) do some kind of exercise every day4, as those were two things I’d found I’d fallen out of the habit of doing when I turned my life all topsy-turvy by taking on a part-time MBA program in addition to my full-time job. I’m happy to report that those habits seem to have stuck with me, as I am in a routine of eating breakfast most days and am actually on day 121 of consecutive days of doing some kind of physical activity5!.

For this year’s May Health Challenge, I decided to again look at what bad habits I’ve fallen into lately – and thus come up with an area where I can work on re-establishing a healthy routine6 and one thing immediately came to mind: I haven’t been making dinners at home very much recently. And when I do, they have more often than not been of the quick – and not quite as healthy – variety. In fact, reading Mark’s7 blog posting about his May Health Challenge, I saw this statement which pretty much sums up my dining of late:

I eat out because of convenience (laziness), a perceived lack of time (poor planning), or as a social event (I have good friends).

The thing is – I actually love to cook! I love to take fresh ingredients, chop them, mix them, season them, and make them into a feast of deliciousness! I like to put on some music and dance around the kitchen as I do so. On occasion, I even do so with a nice glass of wine. But lately I’ve just not been that organized, so even if I do feel like cooking something, I don’t have any of the things I need to cook something wonderful – and that is if I can come up with an idea of what I want to cook. When I’m busy – as I have been at work and school for more months now than I can even count – I tend to feel overwhelmed by end of the day that making even the smallest choice seems impossible. What should I have for dinner? I have no idea. I’ve already made 100,000 decisions today and I’m all out of decision-making capacity!

Happily, I know exactly the fix for this problem of mine: meal planning. If I actually sit down on, say, Sunday evening, and plan out my meals for the week, I can then (a) not have to make last minute dinner decisions and (b) plan out my grocery shopping accordingly, so I have everything I need when I need it, thus resulting in a less stressed out and more healthily fed Dr. Beth.

Here’s my plan for this week – since May 1 is Wednesday, I figured I’d get a head start and include this whole week:

Meal planning - Week of 29 April 2013

Friday I’ve marked in a “school night”, since I have class on Friday and will go out for dinner with classmates8. My challenge isn’t that I have to cook for myself every day, just that I have to have planned my meals. I think that even just being more thoughtful about making a conscious decision about what I’m doing for my meals will help me be a little more aware of what I’m eating, rather than just kind of going along not paying much attention and suddenly realizing I’ve eaten at restaurants more than half the days in a month.

You’ve probably also noticed that I haven’t made a plan for Sunday just yet. I actually just sat down and planned out the other nights tonight, in preparation for this blog posting, and kind of ran out of steam. I’m taking suggestions if anyone has any good ideas!

For my second May Health Challenge, I’m going to do something that doesn’t, at first glance, sound like it has anything to do with health. I’m going to pick my outfits for the week on Sunday night, when I do my meal planning. “But what could this possibly have to do with health?” you ask? For me, it’s about my mental health. I find that on weeks when I pick out my outfits for the week and line them up in my closet so that each morning I can just grab an outfit and put it on, I feel so much better than weeks when every day I get up in the morning, am completely indecisive about what I want to wear, scramble around to find a shirt that goes with the skirt I finally picked, then am not able to find the sweater that goes with that outfit9, and on it goes. When I can just grab and outfit and go, I find I get to work feeling more relaxed/less frazzled and ready to take on the day!

So there you have it – my May Health Challenges! What are you going to challenge yourself to do this May?

  1. Not to mention January through March. []
  2. “May” recall! Get it?? I slay me! []
  3. Which I accomplished. []
  4. Which I managed to do 26 out of the 30 days of the challenge – as the 31st was reserved for celebrating! []
  5. As part of 101 things to do list to do some kind of physical activity every day for a year! []
  6. This is actually a good time to set up a new routine, as I recently broke up with boyfriend, so all my routines that I’d established over the last ~a year we’d been living together are gone anyway. Yeah, I just revealed my breakup in a footnote. I’m a heartless bastard. Or one who doesn’t like talking about this stuff on my blog. The jury is still out. []
  7. Mark being one of the aforementioned Guelphites. []
  8. Going out for meals on class weekends is actually something that I really enjoy – it’s a chance to socialize with my classmates. And in an intense program like ours, the support and camaraderie really does help you get through. []
  9. My office is freezing, so I always have to have a sweater. []

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#mayhealth begets #junehealth

A long, long time ago1, in a galaxy far, far away2, I told you about a little thing called the May Health Challenge. The challenge, as it were, was to do something for your health for 30 days. The challenges I chose were:

  1. eat breakfast every morning
  2. doing some form of physical activity every day

So, I’m sure you are wondering: how did I do? Well, far be it from me to keep you in suspense. To the spreadsheet!

The good news first: I accomplished challenge #1 by eating breakfast every single day. It wasn’t always the healthiest breakfast, but it was never terrible and I managed to do it every single day.

I wasn’t quite so successful with challenge #2, but I managed 26 of 30 days. Those other four days – well, quite honestly, I forgot. I seriously got through entire days where I got so busy that went through my whole day, then went to bed, without even remembering I was supposed to do some exercise. Usually I would remember the next day when I was trying to decide what to have for breakfast (since, for some reason, I never seemed to forgot that my other challenge was to eat breakfast!). On the plus side, I went running FIVE times, which is more than all the times I went running in 2012 prior to May! So, yay me!

In celebration of the success of the May Health Challenge, the Guelphites who created the Challenge, had a par-tay today, which I just now as I’m typing this am remembering I totally meant to Skype into (oops!). Since I wasn’t able to attend the festivities in person and partake of the celebratory treats, I decided to make a treat of my own3. Specifically, this coffeecake:
coffeecake

I know it looks like a big cookie, but it is, in fact, a coffeecake.

coffeecake

Close up!

So, now that May Health is over, I’m sure you are wondering what I’m going to do next4. Well, I feel like I haven’t really made these two health behaviours into real habits yet, so I’m extending the May Health Challenge into a June Health Challenge – going to see if I can eat breakfast every day for another 30 days, and actually do some physical activity every single day too! Wish me luck!

  1. By which I mean 30 days ago. []
  2. By which I mean, right here []
  3. I also realized that it is the last day of May and since I’m trying to bake something different every month for one year as per item #25 in my 101 list, I needed to bake something today to keep up with that. In related news, Devon is a big fan of item #25. []
  4. Actually, I’m pretty sure you weren’t wondering that at all. []

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May Health Challenge – An Early Update!

Hey, remember that time I started doing the May Health Challenge? Well, I’m on day 5 of 30 and so far, so good! I’ve eaten something for breakfast every single day1 and I’ve done some form of physical activity (in addition to my regular walking to the store/taking the stairs instead of the elevator when I can2) every day. And just for good measure, I’m eating celery sticks as I write this!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/drbethsnow/7146001979/

Eating celery. Ever so healthy!

Now, because anything worth doing is worth putting in a spreadsheet3, and because it makes me feel more accountable to be reporting out on, I give you this link to my spreadsheet where I’m tracking this stuff: May Health Challenge spreadsheet.

Also, since it’s only 5 days in and I’m struggling to come up with creative ideas for physical activity on days when I don’t have time to go out and run 5 km or go for a bike ride – and because the equipment in the exercise room in my building inexplicably has been pushed to one side and covered in plastic (as if they are going to renovate the room, but there’s been no notice put up about what’s going on) – I came up with the brilliant idea that I should resurrect my goal of doing the 200 sit up program 4! I could have sworn this was on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, and I was all prepared to be all “look at me, I’m killing two birds with one stone5, but I just checked that list and it isn’t there. At any rate, I just downloaded the “200 situps” iPhone app, so that pretty much guarantees that I’ll do it, right?

  1. Not necessarily the *most* healthy breakfast every day, but nothing too terrible. []
  2. The stairs in my building are locked up like it’s freaking Fort Knox, so I can only take the stairs from my parking garage level to the main lobby. So annoying, because I would really like to be able to walk up the 6 flights of stairs to get to my place every day instead of taking the elevator! []
  3. Note to Dr. Dan: “Anything worth doing is worth putting in a spreadsheet” totally needs to go on a shirt []
  4. As I’m already doing pushups as my anti-procrastination mechanism []
  5. where “May Health Challenge” and “knocking an item off my 101 list” = the two birds []

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May Health Challenge

So, I’m getting fat. True story. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve gained 10 pounds. TEN! And remember, I’m only 5 ft tall, so that’s like a normal sized human gaining 50 lbs1. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit, but the point is, this is entirely not acceptable. I knew when I decided to start school that I was going to have to give us things like training for half marathons, but I didn’t realize that my physical activity would drop to pretty much zero. Granted, I didn’t expect to move apartments and I certainly didn’t expect my dad to die during this time, so I suppose I have a few good excuses for my lack of focus on my health, but honestly, it’s just getting way out of hand and I need to do something about it.

So the other day when I saw Dr Dan’s blog posting about the May Health Challenge, I immediately responded, “I’m in. I’m so very, very in.”

The May Health Challenge, started by Dr. Julie and Dr. Mark (friends of the aforementioned Dr. Dan) is pretty simple. Pick something – or maybe two things – to do every day for the first 30 days in May to make your life a little healthier. Seems pretty simple, right? Of course, with my typical “Go Big or Go Home” mentality, I immediately thought of 27 different things I wanted to do: pack a healthy lunch, do 30 minutes of exercise, no sweets, 30 days of yoga, take a 30 day vacation on a tropical island. But then I remembered that the reason I’m in my current predicament is because I have no time – I’m already getting waaaaay too little sleep – which is bad for your health and, not-so-coincidentally, insufficient sleep is linked to overweight & obesity – so adding 27 new things to my plate is not going to healthify2 me. So I thought long and hard about what small things I could do to get myself back on the right path – things that are doable, but that will have an actual health benefit. And here’s what I came up with:

  1. Eat breakfast. For many, many years, I was not a breakfast person. But at some point I realized that I really should become a breakfast person, because it’s really important to get some nutrition action in the morning, and so I started making myself eat breakfast. At first, I really didn’t feel hungry, having gone so many years without breakfasts, but once I got used to it, I really started to like it. It makes you feel a lot better with some food in your belly in the a.m., and then you don’t end up overeating at lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, with my schedule being all messed up from the aforementioned scheduler messer uppers, breakfast seems to have fallen by the wayside. But it’s time to take back breakfast! Hard boiled egg and toast! Yogurt, fruit and granola! A homemade Egg McMaster! Even a bowl of cereal will do. For the next 30 days, I pledge to eat breakfast every morning (and picking up a muffin at the coffeeshop is not allowed!). I mean, if I’m trying to get back on track with being healthier, why not start with the first meal of the day?
  2. Do some form of physical activity every day (beyond my incidental walking and stair taking). It doesn’t have to be big long run or bike ride, but it does have to be more than just the incidental activity I get from, say, walking to the Skytrain Station, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. After all, I’m getting that exercise now and it’s clearly not doing enough. For the next 30 days, I pledge to do some sort concerted physical activity every single day. Maybe it’s a trip down to the exercise room to ride the recumbent bike as I read a chapter of one of my textbooks. Maybe it’s a bunch of pushups during homework breaks. Maybe it’s stretch break every half hour in the office3. It will include at least a few runs along the boardwalk/yoga classes/trips on the bike path that my friend Patrice just told me about, but knowing my constraints, especially on days when I have classes, I intend to use this 30 days as a time to think creatively about how I can incorporate physical activity into my routine.

In addition, as coincidence would have it, my workplace just started offering a program for employees to work on their own health and part of the program is that you get to work with a health coach who will help you figure out things you can do be more healthy. I’ve already filled out the initial assessment and have been assigned a coach. And my first phone with my coach is in the middle of May – so I’ll be sure to report back to y’all on that as part of my May Health Challenge!

  1. Seriously. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I can’t fit into most of my dress pants right now. []
  2. Healthify is too a word. I read it on the Internets! []
  3. I do entirely too much sitting all day, and sitting all day is bad for you! []