The Importance of Maintaining a Routine

I would predict that 99% of us have seen some shift in our routine recently… even if it’s because the ‘I’ll just pop to the shops’ now takes 2-3 hours.

It is likely that even the most ‘go with the flow’ people within our society have struggled. And I’d expect them to because a pandemic isn’t normal.

However for most people there has been a HUGE shift in routine… children are now at home, people are attempting to work from home whilst trying to educate their kids. People have either switched to home working or have been furloughed and even for those who it’s a case of ‘business as usual’, work is probably busier or quieter than normal. We have to wave goodbye to our key workers and hope that they’ll be okay.

Lack of food in the shops may result in a change from what we’d normally eat. If you were someone who ate out for most meals, you’ll find yourself either living off takeaway pizza or trying to facilitate a relationship with your kitchen.

Socially things are a mess. We can only see the people with whom we live with and it’s putting marriages through their paces. We have to explain to our children why they can’t see their friends.

None of this is normal and everyone’s resilience is being tested.

But by maintaining some kind of routine will help us maintain some kind of normality. If your mental health has been affected, it’s likely ‘what’s the point?’ thoughts may start to slip in. The odd day of ‘what’s the point?’ is fine. On Easter Sunday my husband was working so I stayed in my PJs and binge watched all 7 episodes of Tiger King on Netflix.

However ‘what’s the point?’ could begin to slip in on the daily and before you know it, you’ve no food in the house, all your clothes are needing to be washed, the dishes need doing and everything feels VERY overwhelming.

So here’s my top 10 tips on maintaining a routine:

1) Go to bed and wake up at a reasonable hour – even if you wake up and have nowhere to go. Keeping your sleep routine in good shape is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health.

2) Get washed – some of you may be judgemental on this one as it’s assumed it’s a normal habitual task. However, it’s very easy to slip in to ‘my hair can go another day without being washed’ or ‘my teeth don’t feel that bad’. Trust me, you’ll feel loads better if you make sure you keep your personal hygiene intact.

3) Eat regularly – even though I’m still working and I’m now exercising more than ever, my appetite is all over the place. My body is telling me it’s anxious even though I don’t mentally feel anxious and I assume it’s because I’m generally unsettled ALL THE TIME. Some days I’m eating more and others I’m eating less, but I’m trying to make sure that each meal has a source of protein, carbs and fats and trying to maintain some kind of appropriate relationship with the biscuit tin. Obviously don’t force yourself to eat, but try to stick to as normal an eating plan as possible that you know works for you.

4) Try to learn a new skill – there is a lot of promotion on learning a new skill but it may be you don’t have a burning desire to do anything which is totally okay. I went through a period of unemployment two years ago and I had no idea what to do with my time. I ended up starting to explore blogging and vlogging/watching YouTube and it’s something I’ve kept in my life ever since. It’s okay to sit in front of a blank piece of paper and get creative in even the slightest of things that pique your interest.

5) Talking – just because we can’t see our loved ones like we used to doesn’t mean we can’t speak to them. There are loads of ways to contact and it doesn’t have to be on Zoom. Telephone calls, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, text messages… if you speak to someone anyway, it doesn’t have to change just because we’re in lockdown. I’m all for Zoom, but I feel like there is a bit of a stigma developing if you don’t use it…

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

6) Exercise – now don’t worry, I’m not about to get all #fitspo on you. But the sun has been shining in the UK and I would encourage you to go for a walk/run/cycle or HIIT (indoor/outdoor) some/most days of the week. Don’t feel like you have to go out every day, but I think we’re all needing some Vitamin D (well that’s a fact) and some endorphins from exercising. For many of us, we are no longer going about our ‘usual movements’ e.g walking from the car to our office building, walking to the shops for our lunch and these movements add up. I know if I don’t do anything else in a day, I’m currently looking at doing 400-500 steps a DAY.

On the flip side to that, don’t spend ALL your time exercising. It’s essential your body has time to relax, especially if you’re stressed. Even though you may experience a rush of endorphins from exercise, doesn’t mean that using muscles are still experiencing a stress from physical use/overuse.

7) Reduce screen time – as we all know by now, screen time (and blue light) can affect sleep quality. But, it’s also important we do other things in addition to watching YouTube, Netflix or working. Even if it’s just staring out your window, doing some mindfulness or chatting to your partner, give your eyes a rest.

8) Do one domestic activity a day – I know. You thought you’d escaped someone telling you to clean your room. I’m sorry. But even if it’s cleaning the dishes, vacuuming, doing one load of laundry… try to keep on top of your domestic duties otherwise they can quickly build up. It’s also more calming to live in a aesthetically calm environment (or at least in the environment you’re used to).

9) Take your medication – this applies for everyone who takes regular medication obviously. Now is not the time to be experimental in whether you actually ‘need’ to take your medication or not. Taking medication is actually quite routine based for us and adds an additional sense of normality. Disclaimer: Ensure you always speak to your doctor about any medications you are taking.

10) Be kind to yourself – A phrase that is often said but what does that look like? The concept of self-care is often misused on social media. It’s not all facemasks and bubble baths. Maintaining a routine can be considered self-care. It’s okay to feel like this is a complete mess. It’s okay to feel whatever emotions you are feeling. If it feels like it is becoming too much, you can contact your GP, or charities such as Mind, the Samaritans or even a friend or family member. Let’s be kind to each other and to ourselves and remember we are all in this together.

I Should Be Grateful to Have A Relationship with Food

One of my greatest bug bears of this year has been the response (good and bad) to diet culture.

I may not be ending 2019 where I intended to be (a different country to start with!) but I have been on a significant journey of self discovery.

I always intended to have a steady relationship with food and a balanced approach to nutrition, but not for one second did I think I’d end up in a such a funky mindset with food.

It is my fault to a certain extent by being persuaded by some uneducated plonkers on the internet, but I also blame the lack of gratitude the western world has for food.

It is so easy to forget that in some parts of the world they do not have access to food and clean water. Meanwhile we are too busy worrying about having too small a bum and not a flat enough stomach and taking this out on our relationship with the contents of our shopping trolley.

Now I’m not talking about people with eating disorders… that’s a whole different kettle of fish. But I’m talking about the influencers telling us to ditch one type of food and instead spend our money on something else that is fashionable at that very moment in time. Especially when it is driven by their financial gain. Cue #cyonidegate

Yesterday I complied fully with my no snacking/sit at the table rules and for something so simple it was so empowering. I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted but it must fall within breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I was too full I could have whatever I’d wanted at the next meal.

It felt like such a grounded day with food. I did not overeat, I felt in control and I felt grateful that I had a fridge full of food to choose from.

I appreciate its only one day but the experience was so much more rewarding that seeing a number drop on the scales. My mind has become so consumed with the thought of foods (and my bank balance has become so empty signing up to every dieting plan there is) that it was nice to have a break.

Today I took the plunge and didn’t weigh out my breakfast. Scary stuff!

I appreciate it might sound a bit whacky to be ‘grateful’, but being introduced to daily gratitude was a life changing thing for me. At the time I was unemployed, looking at returning to live with my parents and it was putting a huge strain on my relationships. Being able to focus on the good in my life at the point stopped me from going under and 12 months later we are back on track.

I won’t let diet culture and social media influence me anymore. I am not against weight loss – I’m on a mission to shave a few inches off myself. But nor will I succumb to the games of diet culture and/or anti diet culture.

So there we have it! I’ll get off my soap box now!

What I’ve Learned in 2019

This year has been quite a messy year across the board and although I’ve miraculously kept my mental health relatively intact, I would say that my relationship with food has been affected. Well maybe my relationship with dieting rather than food…. I can’t quite pinpoint with what is ‘off’ but something definitely is.

I’ve somehow managed to lose 8-9lbs this year which may not seem much but with a crazy job, relocation and financial fun times, I think I have achieved somewhat of a miracle.

They say knowledge is power, but I think in the case of nutrition and weight management, this isn’t always the case. Divulging into the ‘library’ of nutritional ‘advice’ on Instagram makes for a very interesting read with everybody expressing their opinions, fat shaming, diet shaming and even massive disagreements among health professionals.

I know that a calorie deficit is required. I know that after 20 years of on/off calorie counting that I don’t require much energy to run on. I know that I snack when I’m not hungry. I know I need to increase my strength training. Yet ‘influencers’ are always there encouraging me to believe something different (highlighting that they are skilled at their job at least!)

The thing is… I’m beginning to think I’m very much on the journey of being a mindful eater and it makes it tricky to believe all the rubbish that is on the internet.

My ultimate goal would be just to mindfully eat and get rid of all the dieting apps and memberships I currently possess. That’s my long term goal. However, in the meantime I can’t guarantee I won’t track calories here and there and there is nothing wrong with that. I ain’t perfect and I’m no longer trying to be.

The thing is there is so much expectation and pressure to be the perfect dieter, with the perfect weight loss journey and quite frankly guys that just isn’t a thing. Different approaches work for different people and primarily the goal is to prioritise your health over everything else. Losing weight to the detriment of your mental health is achieving diddly squat yet it is SO easy to end up there.

There is so much extremism on the internet that it’s ridiculous and by shaming anyone for anything is causing so much harm. I once used #intuitiveeating and was kindly informed I was a trigger for eating disorders. For someone who has a cosncious, I didn’t take that well. Sometimes some of us fall in the gap between dieting and intuitive eating and I won’t apologise for that.

2012 vs 2016

My biggest goal is not what I look like tomorrow or next week, but to build up my muscle, drop my body fat to a slightly healthier level and prepare myself for my future. I’m at high risk of osteoarthritis AND at risk of low bone density, which if my new scales are to believed then it’s teetering at being low as it is!

I am a bit bigger now than what I was in 2016. Body image does affect my confidence and I am often the ‘bigger’ friend in the group. I want to be able to not have to worry about covering up when the sun shines. I want to be able to wear mini skirts. No one has imposed these thoughts on me, it is my own belief system which is a LOT better than it used to be. But I’ve lined up a couple of things for next year to help me along the way.

So by the end of 2019 I’ve learnt that I’m generally quite confused by weight loss (and generally speaking the world we live in!) I’m learning that I am a rule breaker and don’t like to be told what to do and what to eat. I’m learning that I don’t massively enjoy calorie counting but I do appreciate it has it’s place and is something I may have to use for a while. I’m learning that I’m so glad I’m not a dietitian because I could not be bothered having to unpick what the internet has told my clients to do. I’ve been informed that most people in the fitness industry have their own complicated relationship with food and aren’t always the best people to listen to. Finally, I’ve learned that this is my journey and ultimately I know what works best for me. I have so much confidence in knowing this in other areas of my life, but it has most definitely been a pitfall when it comes to weight loss.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post then I applaud you for making your way through my ramblings. I hope that you take with you that it takes time to really know your body and that it’s OKAY to find weight loss plans difficult to stick to. Restriction is hard and ultimately our bodies don’t care what they look like in a bikini – they want to survive and by reducing our calorie intake, they foresee a food shortage. We should really thank our bodies for being clever enough to respond to try and keep us alive.

Let’s try to break the doom and gloom and focus on living a simple healthy life!