What happened in 2013?
For me, 2013 was quite a year:
- I became a doctor;
- I became a home-owner;
- I lost about two stone;
- we acquired a new cat.
I remember wanting to get a PhD in primary school. I have no idea what put the idea into my head, but it was put there somehow and it never left me. My first degree was in chemistry, but that wasn’t the right subject. My second degree was in scientific computing, but, unlike for Colin, that wasn’t the subject for me either. My third degree was in linguistics. My supervisor suggested I do a PhD in this subject; I agreed. Some years later, it seemed like I would never get there, but I did it, and I graduated in the summer.
Narrow Escape, our floating home
Since flying the nest, I have always rented my home, starting with shared houses and student accommodation, and ending with renting with Colin. Increasingly, I wanted to buy my own home. I daydreamed about this so much that I even had a phase of watching programmes like Escape to the Country
and Homes under the Hammer
Colin got it into his head that he wanted to live on a narrowboat. Narrowboats are a lot cheaper to buy than houses, especially houses in Cambridge, so I eventually consented. We found Narrow Escape, and now here I am, sitting in the saloon of my own home.
I didn’t just go on a diet, I changed my diet. If you need a name for it, it was the low glycaemic load diet. It’s like the low glycaemic index diet, but it takes into account portion size. It’s not about cutting carbohydrates out of your diet, it’s about what kind of carbohydrates you eat. Carbohydrates that don’t cause a rapid increase in your blood sugar are good; these include those in oats and sweet potatoes. Carbohydrates that do cause a rapid increase in your blood sugar are bad; for example, sucrose (ordinary sugar) and wheat flour. I learnt that most of my favourite foods involve the bad carbohydrates.
Sadly, the habit wasn’t strong enough to withstand the stress of moving and then Christmas and New Year, so after I lost two and a half stone, I put on another half a stone. Nevertheless, I still lost two stone overall.
After our beloved cat, Dusty, died in 2012, I didn’t think we’d get another cat. However, there was a big fur-ball huddling under the hedge in the back garden. We felt sorry for this cat, because it was cold and snowy outside. If we’d still had Dusty, we wouldn’t have been able to let this poor cat in. But we didn’t, so we could. I look on this as a positive thing that came from Dusty’s passing.
In early 2013, we took the cat to the vet, and discovered he was a boy. We adopted him, and named him Mr Perkins because he’s perky. He is now, of course, a boat-cat.
What will happen in 2014?
The short answer is that I haven’t a clue. I know what I want to happen, but whether I will achieve this or not is a different matter all together. Isn’t this where new year’s resolutions come in?
Should we make new year’s resolutions?
Many years ago, I resolved not to make any more new year’s resolutions because there never seemed to be any point: I’d break them in the first week. It’s no wonder: the human brain isn’t capable of keeping them, as Leo Widrich of Buffer explained this time last year. The problem is that the brain isn’t good at maintaining will-power.
Instead of trying to change several aspects of ourselves at once, we should focus on one thing only, the most important thing that we want to change. This could be anything from eating healthier or writing 1000 words every day.
Once we’ve decided what our goal is, we focus on the steps needed to achieve that goal, rather than leaping straight to the goal itself. These steps should be as small as possible and be easy enough to slot into your lifestyle. Take the stairs instead of the lift, even if for only one floor, for example. Over time, these little steps will increase naturally until your goal is achieved.
If you tell people or write down what you’re doing, this apparently helps you form a new habit. I don’t know why either should be so. Perhaps we fear people’s judgement if we fail or we cement it into our minds by writing it down. I do know that when I was revising for exams, the only way I could get all that information into my brain was to write it down over and over again.
Finally, we must reward ourselves for doing well rather than punish ourselves for failing. When I was dieting, I had a cheat day once a week. These days allowed me to indulge in bad carbohydrates for one meal without feeling guilty. Guilt is a negative feeling; I want to feel happy, not sad. It also meant that because I knew I was allowed to have them at a certain time, I didn’t miss them so much during the rest of the week.
My new habit
In 2014, I intend to become fitter and healthier. There are two routes to achieve this goal: diet and exercise. I know I can do the diet part of it, so I’m not counting that as forming a new habit: I’m just resurrecting an old one: the low glycaemic load diet. I am not placing a strict starting date on this because we still have some Christmas food left, and I don’t want to feel guilty about eating it.
The exercise part, however, is a different kettle of fish. I am such a couch potato, and I don’t really enjoy exercise. I did start cycling last year, and I almost started enjoying it. I cycled up and down the busway, which was a nice surface to cycle on, and I could easily change my ride to a longer or shorter ride if I wanted. After we moved onto the boat, I stopped cycling, partly because the front brake is broken, and partly because we don’t live near the busway anymore.
I am secretly envious of Colin, who can do his exercise anywhere, providing he remembers his kit: he simply runs. He’s been to San Francisco and Thailand, and he ran in both places. For me to do that, if I did go anywhere, I would have to acquire a bike, which is extra hassle and therefore discouraging. So, I thought I’d take up running.
I haven’t started yet. I have one of those couch-potato-to-5K-runner apps on my phone. I plan to start on Monday. The first run takes 25 minutes. This is not a tiny step. I should perhaps “go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block” at a certain point in the day. Perhaps I’ll start with the walk and develop it into a run and then into the first day of the 5K training.