So, it’s finally February, the new year is settled in and chances are, you may have already given up on your new years resolution. If you haven’t, but are finding it difficult then here are some of my own personal tips and ideas for helping you to stay on track. If you’ve already given up, lost the will or even forgotten then hopefully this article will help give you the courage you need to try again.
I have to start by admitting that I don’t actually make any new years resolutions and the reason is mainly due to my health (I won’t bore you with the detail but if you want to know more, read About ME. Having ME means that I don’t always know how I’m feeling from one day to the next, so rather than set myself up to fail, I pace myself /take things slower). Now you don’t have to be ill to pace, it’s actually a really sensible way to approach things and taking this kind of view for goal setting can be key to keeping them. For example – setting huge goals at the beginning of the year can be quite overwhelming for anyone and the pressure can lead to failing. If you feel like you have failed, you’re more likely to give up and not bother trying again. Alternatively, you might be the type who begins each week trying again and ends by giving up on the weekend. If this is the case, then try pacing – breaking your goals down into smaller, more realistic and manageable chunks, effectively making it easier for you to achieve. As you reach each ‘mini’ goal you will feel better about it, boosting your self esteem, feeling more positive therefore giving you the confidence to continue and meet your next mini goal. Each mini goal adds up and completes your main target.
If you want more convincing then listen to this. Research suggests that it takes 30 days for the body to develop a habit, that’s why the campaign ‘Stoptober’ (in the UK which encourages people to give up smoking for the whole of October) is carried out over the month. This is because by completing one month, you are likely to carry on and stick with it. Each month soon adds up and before you knew it, it’s a year. By breaking the goal up into smaller chunks (such a as weeks or months) you give yourself time to adjust and develop something into ‘habit’, which means you’ll stop noticing it as much and do it automatically, turning a bad habit into a good one.
So, how can I help you keep to your goals?
By explaining what tools, apps and resources I have used to help keep me motivated, it can give you the inspiration you need to get together your own set of ‘tools’. Now, I need to point out that it’s likely your goals will be different to mine, but that doesn’t matter because the items Im going to discuss can be applied to a number of goals, such as weight loss, increasing exercise, dieting, eating healthier, making more time for yourself or even sticking to a new hobby. So, read on and I will explain…..
I made my goals in October after seeing a private specialist for my health condition. From the consultation I found out I was intolerant to, well, loads of stuff. I was recommended to follow a Paleo diet, but it was a little complicated because some of the ‘allowed’ foods on this diet I have to avoid due to another dietry complication. In addition to this I was given a large number of supplements to take throughout the day and told to pace and follow a night routine to help me with my sleep disturbances. From this I broke my goals down into two sections.
- Develop a sleep pattern
- Find recipes to cook
Now, you may think that two goals is pretty easy right? Well, maybe for someone who is healthy or for someone who adapts easily to change, but for me, with my health as it is, it’s been a struggle. That said, I’m now 3 months in to the changes and although I’m getting there, I’m still working on them. My approach began by reading through the paperwork my specialist sent me and I researched carefully into foods/ sleep habits etc.
As a result I’ve come across the following useful tools.
Keep a Diary – Dodo pad and Filofax
Sounds obvious, but keeping a diary is a great way of staying on track. It can help with forward planning as well as being able to look back and measure how far you have come. I personally record health symptoms such as really bad days, pains, reactions to foods, reactions to how much/ little I’ve paced and sleep patterns. I also keep notes of when my medications are due to run out (giving me a weeks notice so they can be re-ordered), lists of websites that I find are useful and lists of the foods that I can and cant have for times when I may need to double check. The result of doing this, is that I am slowly starting to notice (very) small changes that are occurring with my health/ sleep patterns and it gives me a great sense of hope that I will be able to one day return to better health. For example, I’ve worked out the key time for going to bed! If I go before or after this time, I tend to have a worse nights sleep.
So, if you don’t currently keep a diary/ log/ journal, I would suggest you try it. You may find it helps to keep you focused. My personal favourite, is a ‘Dodo‘ diary. I came across ‘Dodo’ in a magazine article (5 years ago) and its been my christmas present to myself every year since. They are available in a number of formats (academic, pocket size, A4 or A5 and so on). This year, however, I treated myself to a Filofax cover (from ebay) which now snuggly fits my dodo diary.
I first started using a sleep app on my iPhone over a year ago and its a great way of keeping track of what time you go to bed, get up, wake in the night and so on. Its not 100% guaranteed (unlike a sleep monitoring band), but it is accurate enough to build a picture of your sleeping habits. I have found that going to bed later than the advised time (by my speciailst) can cause me to stay awake for longer. Going to bed too early can also have this effect, but if I go at the right time (now worked out from my App), I can fall asleep and maintain being asleep through the night (waking up less).
The App that I am using is called Sleep Cycle. However there are other sleep apps and ways of recording your sleep. One method that I have personally tired (and LOVE) is the Jawbone Up. its an activity monitor so is Brilliant for those of you who are looking to increase your levels of fitness.
For further advice regarding sleeping habits, please keep an eye on my blog, where you can read my article on Sleeping Well, due to be published within the next week .
If one of your goals is to eat better, lose weight or change the way you cook then I think I will definitely be able to help you here. My diet has changed so radically that I had to go out and research about foods, intolerances and how to substitute ingredients. Now because my diet change was due to health reasons, I had no choice but to stick to it so in a way, it didn’t include will power. However, that didn’t make it any easier, if anything it made it harder as I had to be careful of the foods I ate, giving me less room for error. I can honestly say I was really overwhelmed by it all and took me a while to get to grips with things (and Im still learning) but I found that there are a number of things that you need to do if you’re planning a diet change.
Finding blogs relating to the diet / food changes you want to make can make it easier for you to adapt. Seeing people who are already eating this way and have tried and tested recipes can give you inspiration and help you with any questions you may have.
I follow a Paleo diet and have found the following blogs the most useful:-
The advantage of a blog is that people can comment on the posts. If you have a cooking disaster or can’t find an ingredient, reading through the comments section can help answer any questions you may have or, if the answers are not there, you can ask the blogger yourself.
Cookbooks are another way to help you stay on track. They take the guess work out of creating meals and can help you from falling into a rut of eating the same foods over and over. After stumbling across Elenas blog (Elanas Pantry) I discovered that Elana had written a number of cook books. I’m now the proud owner of ‘Paleo Cooking from Elanas Pantry’ and have to say that there are so many dishes that I love, I have now ordered her other cookbooks.
Now if you’re trying a diet and don’t want to buy a pricey cook book, there are plenty of ways to get cheap cook books. You can look on Amazon, eBay and even in second hand/ charity shops. I’ve bought some great cook books over the years from charity shops and the money goes to a good cause. Alternately you can ask your friends and family what cook books they have and borrow them. I personally prefer to buy them because I love books!
There are plenty of magazines about filled with stories, diets and recipes, but did you know that there are some magazines that are solely about cooking? Last year I came across three cooking magazines that have some great recipes in, but cost less than a cooking book. You can also find great recipes in the free mag from local supermarkets. Asda, Tescos and Morrisons all have a free magazine that are published monthly and will usually have recipes targeted at using foods in season for that month.
- Good Food Magazine
- Healthy Food Guide
- Eat Well
Tools for cooking
One of the draw backs I have discovered about searching the World Wide Web for recipes is that when I find something I like the look of, half the time, they are written in ‘cups’ which is not the chosen way of measuring here in the UK. However, I’m excited to say that I found a solution, and that is ‘measuring cups’ so that it takes out the guess work and faffing around with trying to convert weights and measurements. So, if your new eating regime requires you to cook in a certain way (e.g requires a lot of whisking, grinding, weighing, chopping or measuring in cups) then get the right tools for the job (a whisk, pestle and mortar, scales, knives, measuring cups), it will make your life so much easier!
Another tip for cooking would be to get a note pad of some kind, especially if you like to tweak recipes and add your own twist on things. I’m forever forgetting the quantities of spices that Ive added to a dish or can’t remember what substitutes I’ve made. Because of this I bought myself a ‘dodo cooking pad’, another great dodo creation. The book is divided into meal sections (starters, soups, meats, salads, desserts, miscellaneous), has pockets for keeping recipe cards, a weight/ conversion charts, an elastic fastening and has lots of blank pages for me to fill with recipes. There are other brands of this type of cook book, or you can choose to keep a plain note book but I would recommend this kind of book as it keeps all your cooking info together. I find this handy for the days Im too lethargic to cook as my husband can see the measurements/ way I cook things and recipes are easy to find.
The World Wide Web is an amazing invention and can be a great way to get inspiration whatever your goal. When I was first diagnosed as intolerant I found it difficult to find ingredients such as stock cubes that were dairy, wheat, gluten and yeast free. However a short search on the internet came back with loads of useful websites for people with intolerances and allergies. As I continued to look, I came across the following websites that you may find useful too.
This website is great if you are managing a health condition such as gluten intolerance, IBS, following a FODMAP diet or just want to be conscious of the foods you are eating. The website is a sort of forum (divided up by different catagories) where people ask questions of the other members suffering with certain food issues. You will probably learn a heck of a lot about hidden nasties and the people on it are so kind, welcoming and helpful. When I asked a question, I had about 25 responses with people giving me the web addresses of online shops that sell health food supplies and stock gluten, wheat, dairy, sugar and yeast free items….. And yes, I managed to get some stock cubes!!
This website is one of the addresses I was given when I was talking in the gluten intolerance category of the health unlocked website. It’s now become one of my main places for buying my baking supplies. They have a lot of natural products, raw ingredients and intolerant friendly items too. They are reasonably priced with decent postage and packaging costs and they always send you a free clip to tie up your food bags once opened! (Nice touch!)
This website is one of my ultimate favourites. Although it’s a little on the pricey side they have some unusual and delicious treats and they are super fast with delivery. They are perfect for when you want to treat yourself and many of the items show the ingredients list so you can check what each item contains.
So, now you’ve got your books, done your research and are getting into your new routine, how do you make sure you stick to it? Well, there are a few ways, from the cheap as chips approach to the little more expensive. Let’s start with the expensive option…
I personally have an iPhone. I always resisted and swore I wouldn’t get one, but when my husband got one and I saw all the nifty things it did, that was it… Hook line and sinker, I wanted one! That was over a year and a half ago and I have to say it’s still fun for me. Now, if you don’t have an iphone, its not a problem, but if you do have an iphone or an android phone here are some top tips you can do with it (other than calls, obviously haha!)
Text yourself (if you get free texts!)
I use all of these tools on my phone and it helps me to remember a lot. I have my medication times programmed in to alert me everyday, I have my alarm set for each day of the week on an automatic reset and I use the note pad section to write things like shopping lists, to do lists and if I am out and about and see something I want to be reminded of (eg, a gift I think would be good for someone’s birthday later in the year) I note it down. Now for the ‘self’ texting… Yes, I also do this… A lot!!!! I have a contract phone which I get unlimited texts so if I’m off to bed and really want to remember something without having to set an alarm, I text myself, don’t read it, then when I wake the next day, hey presto I have an unread text to remind me. It may sound crazy, but it’s just something that happens to work for me.
Another tip for Android/ iPhones is that you can download apps to suit your needs. There are literally thousands of apps for just about everything, from running/ walking Apps that track your distance to calorie counting ones that you record your meals on. One app that Ive downloaded and love is My recipe jar.
If you don’t have a mobile, here are some tips for remembering things….
It’s a simple yet effective idea and one that I also do, because there are times when I like to sit and write out ideas or reminders rather than using my iphone. It’s always a good idea to keep a note pad by the bed, because it’s very common for people, to remember things just as they are going to bed.
You can get post it notes in all different sizes and colours these days and I find them a great way to highlight important things. Stick them to the fridge, on your phone/ computer/ car keys and remind yourself of tasks you need to do.
Having a chalk board or whiteboard in the kitchen (or somewhere your likely to notice it) can also be a great way to prompt your brain into remember something. I have one in my kitchen and write down ingredients as they run out. At the end of the week you already have your shopping list noted so don’t need to go through all the cupboards trying to remember what’s missing.
So, there you have it, a list of different tools and tips I use to help me through each day. They may sound simple, but I find them effective and hopefully you will too. If you have any further suggestions, tips on other apps or tools that you find useful then please comment below and share your ideas, I find some of the best tips I’ve come across have been from other peoples feedback.