Time management

Today has been a good day. With the kids back at school and the husband back at work I decided that I needed to try to use my time better. However much I may voice the desire, I cannot create more hours in the day, so I need to improve how I use those that are available.

You’ve heard this before right? I am great at starting each new week with positive plans; not so good at following through for more than a few days. Who knows if I will do any better this time, but I can try.

Over the weekend husband wanted to go walking. I am always happy to get out into the countryside so put aside Sunday for an enjoyable day away. Then I saw the walk that he was suggesting. Wiltshire is undulating and I can cope with that; husband wanted to drive into Wales to the beautiful Brecon Beacons, and his plan was to bag a few mountainous peaks. With my current level of fitness I knew that I would not be able to keep up.

Time was, not so long ago, when this would have been a fine way for me to spend a day. I suggested that husband took eldest son and, despite him offering to do something less strenuous instead, assured him that he should do the walk he wanted without me. I only have myself to blame that I am not capable of such exertions.

After this experience I am determined to do something that will ensure I need not miss out next time. This morning I took myself down to the gym and managed a tough workout followed by a swim. No doubt I will ache tomorrow but at least I have made a start. The challenge will be to keep going, and to eat more healthily alongside.

The older I get the longer it seems to take to feel the benefit of changes to diet and exercise. So much time and effort is needed to achieve what came easily in my younger years. However, I am not yet too old to get fit enough to climb a mountain. All I need is the continuing willpower to effect the change I desire.

Once again I come back to the issue of time, and hence my wish to manage my day better. I want to continue to enter each of the fiction challenges that I enjoy, but also to take part in favoured blog hops. I want to be reading the blogs I follow and leaving comments, something that I have been neglecting recently. I have so many books that I want to read and review I could lose days to this favourite pursuit. If I am to care for my house and family as they deserve then something is going to have to give, and I suspect it is going to have to be the hours that I currently devote to my writing.

Balance is good in life and I am sure that I can find a way to fit in what is truly important. When I see how much others manage to accomplish I realise that I can do better than I have been achieving recently. I do not plan on giving anything up entirely, merely changing how much time I devote to any one thing.

That is the theory, now I need to act. Day one has gone well; onwards and upwards.

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The annual hunger games begin

The Hunger Games have started. Tributes have been selected and the game makers are rubbing their hands with glee as another spectacle of control and conformation to societal expectation gets under way.

How boring is this? Another New Year and yet another attempt to lose weight (yawn). I wonder how many of us have chosen to take part and why. How much is down to good intentions and how much to a desire to conform to the media’s unrealistic promotion of a utopian dream of beauty and never ending youthful looks?

Some of you may be spotting a flaw with the maths. After all, New Year started a week ago. However, my logic works like this: I get given chocolate for Christmas; if I don’t finish the chocolate before I go on a diet then I will be unable to resist the chocolate and the diet will fail; there is therefore no point in starting the diet until all the Christmas chocolate has been consumed.

I have a mindset that requires priming. Knowing that I am going to restrict my consumption of food, I need to allow myself all the treats that will be forbidden before I start. By allowing myself to indulge I can resist for longer once I move into the arena. The trick is to make noticeable progress that I will be inspired to maintain before my resolve weakens. For me, this is the hardest part.

I have been trying to lose weight since I was a teenager. Think Bridget Jones. Each year I succeed in losing an impressive number of lbs, and each year I gain more than I should. A couple of years ago I had a rare success. When the losses and the gains were added up I had managed to shed in excess of 40lb. For my age I was fit and felt fabulous.

Unfortunately I couldn’t maintain this happy result and the weight crept back on. There were no good reasons behind this, I simply allowed myself to eat too much of the wrong sort of food. Hence I am now facing another New Year with another determination to work off the spare tyres and improve my eating habits.

It is not all about looks. I am no beauty, not least because I am too lazy to maintain good grooming habits. I would like to feel better in my clothes, to have them skim rather than cling, but my main incentive is to improve my fitness and thereby my energy levels. When I carry less weight I just feel so much better in myself.

I do not, not, not wish to become a diet bore. I recognise that these Hunger Games will not be entertaining for others. Nevertheless, being constantly hungry will result in me thinking about food and self imposed restriction. Working out will result in me feeling tired, achy and smugly self satisfied when I achieve my workout goals.

The films to which I flippantly refer star an actress who is unusual amongst her contemporaries in refusing to conform to the entertainment industry’s size zero ideal. I admire her for her willingness to promote the fact that food is not the enemy, that people are supposed to be different shapes and sizes.

Nevertheless, it is not good for my health to be the size that I am. Forget size zero, I am aiming for a USA size 10 (UK size 12). For my height this puts me in the healthy weight range. I will not be a skinny but will feel so much better in myself.

If I do mention diet and fitness too often in the coming weeks then I apologise. If I emerge a victor then you can be sure that I will let you know.

Let the Hunger Games begin, and may the odds be ever in my favour.

Hunger-Games-cupcake

Happy Birthday to me

Today is my birthday. I now have exactly one more year to sort myself out before I reach my first half century. I am not bothered by the ageing process; the adventure of life continues apace and I am learning from all my experiences. I have no wish to be a different age or to relive a time that has gone before. Neither do I harbour any massive regrets for decisions made; I am okay with where I am today apart from a few issues around the edges that only I am capable of dealing with. So that is what I need to do.

For today though, I will do my best to enjoy what I have got. Life has as many special occasions as we choose to celebrate and I will mark this day in a low key but celebratory manner with my family. I was surprised to see that the Google Doodle has been changed in my honour (everyone is seeing those cakes, right?). I rather like that.

I have plans for the next year. One of the issues I have struggled with through spring and summer is how to cope with truculent teenagers. My children are growing up, asserting their independence, and I am not dealing with this as well as I would wish. I need to shift my mindset and allow them to make the mistakes that they will learn from. I need to find my own way again after years of living for them.

I also need to get more comfortable with how I see myself. Three years ago, when I was feeling settled in a sort of comfortable, middle aged, cuddly mama look, I took the decision to home school my youngest son (Why I became an amateur teacher). Over the course of that fabulous year, as I watched my insecure little boy blossom and grow in confidence and ability, I had little time for myself. I was preparing lessons, pouring my heart and soul into his development, and with the remainder of my waking hours making sure that my husband and other two children got enough attention not to feel sidelined. There was no time for me; none at all. I ate, slept and functioned. I put on a huge amount of weight.

When my son returned to mainstream education I decided to deal with my lack of self care. I joined a luxurious gym and made sure that I went out for long walks and cycle rides. I gave myself lots of time for me. By watching what I ate I managed to lose the weight I had gained and a lot more besides. Within nine months I was slimmer and fitter than I had been in twenty-five years. I felt amazing.

I have long passed the window of opportunity to look fabulous, but what I loved about this transformation was the fact that I could put on the clothes that I liked and feel that they suited me. No longer was I trying to hide the bumps and rolls; I could wear close fitting clothes without feeling suffocated or worrying that I resembled the michelin man.

Much as I felt good about the way that I looked, the way that that I felt was cathartic. The improved fitness gave me energy that I hadn’t possessed in more years than I could remember. I was fitting in all of my activities, keeping the house running as it should and not suffering that feeling of everyday exhaustion that had become a fact of life.

I do not know how much of this was down to improved health and how much to the psychological benefits of feeling good about myself. Although my friends and acquaintances were making many complimentary remarks when they saw me, my family did not see the change as either necessary or beneficial. My daughter was not happy with my strict eating habits which worried me; I know that parents must be careful not to instil negative body image issues in their children. My elder son, who had taken to insulting me with the phrase ‘Du bist eine gross und dicke mutter’, was persuaded that this was no longer appropriate which was an achievement, but complements from teenage boys to aged relatives are an expectation too far.

Not that I felt any need for complements; in many ways those I received made me feel uncomfortably exposed. I was happier that my family had accepted me whatever my size and did not see me being larger or smaller as noteworthy. This has been particularly important in dealing with what came next. Having worked so hard to achieve the changes in my body shape I then, very gradually, allowed the weight to return. Not all of it and not so quickly as to be immediately obvious, but an insidious increase of a pound here and a pound there until I am now, once again, trying and failing to hide the rolls of fat under loose clothes.

Well, this won’t do at all. I know that I can do better and fully intend to sort myself out. Just as I gained time for myself when my youngest son went back to school, so I intend to use more of my time for myself when the summer holiday finishes for my teenagers in a couple of weeks time. They have shown me quite plainly that they prefer, nay demand, more space and freedom. I need to start looking at this as, not a rejection, but an opportunity for me to take the same freedom for myself.

Last time I did this it took nine months; this time I give myself a year. By my next birthday I aim to have lost the excess weight that is both physically and mentally dragging me down and to have found whatever it is that I am to become beyond being a mother to my children. I have allowed myself to live my life through others. This is  a deflation of my potential and places unnecessary and unreasonable demands on them. I can be more than that.

I have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. For today though, I will do what I can to make this a happy birthday for me.

Birthday Cake