One of the most important things that I have learned on this journey, is to plan, plan and if in doubt plan some more… This may sound a bit obvious or simple, but its suprising and strangely common, how the simple and obvious can sometimes be overlooked.
In the past quite often I have started one of my various weight loss journeys with very little thought or preparation and have been continually surprised that things haven’t gone to plan…
Of course it should never have come as much of a surprise really, as on thinking about it, there was never a real plan in place, other than the desire to lose weight.
I would be all motivated and make snap decisions that I would ‘cut down on what I ate’ or ‘follow a certain diet’ (the cabbage soup one was the worst!), but I wouldn’t really think much beyond this.
Now I’m not speaking about the mental preparation that I and most people need to do before even thinking about starting a ‘diet’. Or even the longer term goal setting of where you would like to be in the end and what success would look like for me. As I mentioned in my second post , this was something that I was unable to face for a long time. (I’ll look at this more in a future post)
I’m talking about the fairly basic logistics of what I was trying to do on a day to day basis.
How was whatever diet or exercise regime I was doing at the time, fit in with my life? What was I was actually going to do, day to day, week to week or month to month to support this and what could throw a spanner in the works and get in way?
It seems so obvious looking back now, but these fairly basic fundamental ‘plans’ were almost always absent from my past attempts. And the very basic things that daily life involved, would very quickly derail me and see me abandoning all hope once again.
Simple things like;
- Shopping lists and what to buy, healthy eating on a budget can be expensive, so buying what you’ve always done + a few extra ‘healthy alternatives’ can soon add up and thwart plans. Particularly when 2 out of 3 of us didn’t eat veg or 90% of what you could call healthy!
- Time to cook healthy meals – working, being a single parent to children with additional needs, then latterly an extended family and looking after animals all took time. Throwing a pizza in the oven, opening a jar of something or ordering a take away is way quicker and easier!
- Going out for a meal with my kids/family, was always a challenge, they had a very limited diet so what & where would I eat???
- Visiting a friend for coffee and a catch up was almost always fraught with hidden traps and temptations. Full fat milk, biscuits and home bakes, it would be rude not to…
- Picnics and days out were logistical nightmares, particularly on a budget and with my family’s needs. How could I replace the time honoured tradition of sausage rolls, sandwiches, crisps and biscuits?
- Traveling for work and eating off the ‘hoof’ was always a gamble, to which I would usually lose. Functions and buffets usually had very little in way of healthy options, so I would be ‘forced’ to eat what was on offer…
Basically anything that involved normal daily life was instantly a problem or challenge, resulting in me either not going out or ‘falling of the wagon’. (I’ll go into this more in future posts)
Even things like Christmas, birthdays and parties were very rarely thought through and could sometimes turn into things to dread, because I knew they would be my undoing.
I believe one the main reasons why I’ve experienced success this time, (apart from not going on a diet and more changing the way I see food) is through planning things out in advance. Having a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve (my short term goal), what might stop me from doing this and what I could do to to help prevent this.
I don’t know why it never dawned on me before, as meticulous planning was a big part of my life! I planned childcare for my kids so I could work and study. I planned my kids support needs and ensured that they had structure and order and everything they basically needed for them to be happy and healthy. I even laid plans for my animals! But not for this important aspect of my life. (I’ll cover thinking about you in the future)
Could you imagine setting of on a holiday abroad without your flight or hotel details or any pre-checks in place to see you have the right documentation, money, passport etc. For your clothes, just throwing anything in a suitcase and hoping for the best? Of course not, you could just ‘visualise’ the chaos that would take place. Similar to a ‘carry on camping’ sketch, you know that it would be a disaster.
But this was how I had approached losing weight in the past, which unsuprisingly resulted in it being short lived.
My approach this time has been very different and has helped me to stay on course for over 2 years & 8 months now. I have succeeded in most of the life goals I set myself, with beginning to ride horses again, as well as being within touching distance from where I want to be with my ‘weight’ target. Now only 6lb away. (I’m so excited!!!)
One of the fundamental changes I’ve made this time is to put plans in place for all aspects of my life and develop a set of ‘tools’ to help me to do this. I call this my ‘support toolkit’.
My toolkit isn’t something that sits on a shelf in the garage, its more a compilation of practical steps, templates and actions, that are designed to help me navigate the often difficult route that my life can take.
Like the fairy lights on our local island walks, these tools light the way for me, helping me to find a safer route that protects my goal and see me through most difficult patches.
My ‘Toolkit’ generally consists of
- Protected time to plan – sounds obvious, but as I explained before, this is something that was previously missing. Like most parents, life can be chaotic with lots to do, quite often resulting in not having time to even sit down before its time for us to head of to bed ourselves. This aspect changed, I now ‘ring-fence’ at least 1 hour a week, when I get to sit and plan my week ahead. Just 1 hour, doesn’t sound a lot but it makes a world of difference.
- Using a weekly planner, I now map what meals I’m going to cook or buy if eating out, in advance. This usually gets taped to the fridge so my husband is in on the plan
- I also write my shopping list based on the meals and my week ahead. That way I don’t get side tracked with the old ‘BOGOF’ deals that are usually things that I didn’t want and or had planned for. (Doesn’t stop the husband buying reduced cakes though…)
- I now always check out cafes and places to eat in advance. Menus are usually available to see online so it gives me a chance to plan what I am going to have in advance or even decide where to eat in advance and choose a place that suits us all.
- Get fussy, I used to be someone who never really made a fuss. I would eat pretty much everything without complaint and it would never of occurred to me to ask for things to be cooked the way I want them. I now ask for potatoes instead of chips, for sauces to be served on the side and for butter or fat to be omitted. Most places these days are only to happy to do this, so don’t be shy!
- Teamwork, have get people on your team/side to support you, could be a friend, your parent, partner or child (if old enough). Someone who you can count on to not be judgemental and who will not try to sabotage your efforts!
- Support from other people who are trying to slim is also a great source of support. The group I attend is a brilliant place for me to test my ideas on or vent to if I’m having a rough time. They usually have their own experience to draw from and are usually only to happy to give advice or share their tips with you.
- When working away I always take a back up lunch and lots of fruit and low fat snacks to help see me through the day. This could be a packet of mugshot, which fits into my handbag, which only needs boiling water and most places have access to this. This means if I’m faced with a buffet of high fat or sugary foods, I can choose to eat something that I am happy with.
These ‘tools’ or practical steps have really helped me to build healthy and sustainable habits this time, which fit in with my daily life. They have become the very infrastructure of our family life and I know for certain that I would have failed long ago if I hadn’t thought about things in advance and planned what I was going to do about them before they happened.
I will add a proviso though that even the best laid plans can go array for many reasons, so part of this is about being flexible, resilient and patient. Basically sometimes we need to give ourselves a break and not be so harsh. In the past one slip for me resulted in me totally losing my way and not finding it again for several weeks, months or sometimes years. Building myself a new safety net has helped to change this.
I’m aware that I’ve skimmed over a lot of things in this post, so I intend to look at some of the things that I have mentioned in more detail over the coming weeks. Next time I’ll be looking more at state of mind and how I changed my focus from the negative to the positive, which helped me to become more resilient to life’s knocks and proverbial slips.
I hope you have found this post interesting, please feel free to share your own experiences or let me know if you have any particular topics that you would like me to cover in the future.