Starting 2019 with a new challenge (content warning)

(Content warning — some discussion in here of setting goals around food consumption and weight).

The other day, Sam posted about a new year challenge she — and I — can really get behind:  to eat 30 different plant based foods every week. I got all excited and was pretty pleased that I racked up 21 different plant based foods by Wednesday.  (It would be more if I ate fruit.  I rarely eat fruit.  But my Wednesday lunch salad had pomegranates!  How exotic is THAT in January??)

The same day, I signed up for a new challenge my spinning studio is offering, the January Goal Setting Challenge.  It’s a 6 week overall health challenge with support from a coach at the studio (Torq) with a loose structure around your own personal goals.  (And the entry price goes to a local shelter — yay Torq!)

torq challenge

I was trying to figure out why I feel compelled to take this on, other than the fact that I like the person who is coaching it.  It’s not about adding more workouts to my life — this challenge is actually fewer than I already do.  Over the past couple of years, with my involvement in the “217 in 2017” and “218 in 2018” challenges, I’ve created a habit of working out at least 5 times a week — last year, I reset my 2018 goal after I hit 218 in August, and ended up working out 302 times.

Me finishing my 300th workout for 2018 — a 5 km run in Port Albert, Victoria, Australia


The first year I did that goal, I found that the combination of having a group and a number goal gave me a motivation I never had on my own.  I aimed at 217 workouts, and had to undertake a flurry of activity in December to take me over the line.  In the end I think I hit 221 in 2017, and felt pretty good about that. Early in 2018, as my numbers kept adding up, I realized that the challenge group had done something for me I hadn’t expected — ingrained an expectation that working out almost every day was just something I did.  Because of this habit, I set a personal challenge to work out every day in July, and realized that these challenges had really taught me a lot about what I might term “intuitive working out” — that is, how to move my body regularly in the way that my body needs to be moved, not according to an external training plan or some pre-set agenda.

It turns out, when I set the expectation that I will move my body pretty much every day, and listen to what my body needs, I come up with a blend of yoga, intense cardio like running and spinning, gym visits and more flow-y movement like long bike rides and walks.  I move according to what I need.  This mirrors, for me, some of what Tracy and others have written about intuitive eating.

The 6 week challenge from my spinning studio goes beyond working out — it suggests setting broader intentions about fun movement, eating, and all of the other things that can mess up our health — electronics use, booze and cannabis, hydration, etc.  I don’t love the framing of some of those things as “vices” — they are only bad if they are a problem — but I can live with it.  What appeals to me is that it’s not a rigid plan, but rather, a loose framework that suggests that while we are moving our bodies, we should also be looking at our other habits.  And I think I’m ready for that.

The big aha for me from what I learned from my 217 and 218 workout challenges is that I can learn a more intuitive way of being in my body in new ways.  I’ve developed good practices about giving my body the movement it needs, and it’s become unconscious now.   I also realized that over time, I’ve developed a really intuitive relationship to alcohol. I drink, but I’m highly aware as I am putting a drink to my lips of the impact it will have on my capacity to drive, to sleep, and to feel energetic and whole the next day.  I self-modulate without thinking about it.

I would like to get to that stage with sleep, food and electronics.  I stay up too late, because it feels good in the moment to watch one more episode of whatever is my current netflix binge, because it feels like “found time” in a busy day.  That’s not “intuitive,” it’s impulsive. And then I develop a terrible domino effect of fatigue, crankiness and more bad sleep.   I want to learn to internalize early sleep because I know it will serve me the next day, because I FEEL it will serve me the next day.  And that also means turfing the electronics out of my bed.

The same applies to food.  I’m not a terrible eater, but I have a particularly mindless habit of snacking after dinner and before bedtime.  This doesn’t even feel good in an emotional way in the moment — it’s a binge-y, mindless shoving of food into my mouth, like “oh I have ice cream, I can eat it.” And then I wake up feeling full and gross. And — I will admit this bugs me even while I don’t want it to — while this didn’t used to have a significant effect on my weight, in my 50s, it does.  I feel thicker and slower and not like myself, and my clothes don’t fit well — even as I’m happy with my strength and my capacity to move.

I have tried making “rules” — no snacking after 8 pm — but I always “fail,” and then just put it out of my mind and repeat the pattern.  I think I know now how to set a goal around this that isn’t about “did you eat tortilla chips on Tuesday night after 8 pm?” but rather “are you in touch with how these tortilla chips will make you feel emotionally and in your body?”

I don’t know if this qualifies as “intuitive eating” the way other people use the term — but it works for me.

So my 2019 goals?

  1. Continue working out almost every day, with the overall goal of 300 workouts in 2019 again, if that makes sense for my body as the year unfolds.
  2. Develop a more mindful relationship with snacking.
  3. Develop a more mindful relationship with sleeping and bedtime electronics, with a concrete goal of early bedtime with an actual physical book instead of electronics at least once a week to start with.

These may not be super “SMART” as goals — but they meet what I want to evolve.  And I’m ready for them.  Do you have 2019 goals?



Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto and writes here regularly twice a month.  This photo is Cate on the best hike in the world on New Year’s Day, on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Aus.  



If you want to participate in a “219 in 2019” challenge, one of the people who was in the 3 month fitness challenge Tracy, Christine and I facilitated last fall has created a Fit Feminist version of the challenge on facebook.  New members are welcome — if you want to join, please leave a note in the comments!




23 thoughts on “Starting 2019 with a new challenge (content warning)

  1. I like the way these goals are framed (and how you have reframed them for yourself). The 219 in 2019 goal is becoming increasingly tempting the more all of you talk about how well previous goals have worked for you.

    1. thanks for the comment! If you want to be added to the Fit Feminist Facebook 219 in 2019 group, message the Fit is a Feminist Issue page (@feministfitness) on facebook and I’ll hook you up! Cheers!!!!

  2. I love your notion of “intuitive working out”– that’s exactly what I’m trying to do this year, but I didn’t really know it until you named it. I’m sure it’s influenced by the ways that you and Tracy and Sam and the other bloggers report different sorts of movement depending on conditions (weather, schedule, location, your state of health, your state of mind, etc.) Letting us be in charge of our movement by doing what we think our bodies/minds need that day– that’s great!

    Of course it takes some practice. The challenge you are doing seems like a cool way of expanding the possibilities AND open avenues for activity. They’re getting you to figure out and set up structures for different kinds of workouts in a systematic way. I see why you like this. I’m working on setting up some more avenues for movement for myself– I’m shopping for a gym, and exploring some other exercise/movement classes. Will be reporting on them.

    Thanks as always for the great post!

    1. thanks catherine ;-). It’s funny, I had this moment this morning where I had to discern between how I felt in the moment (DO NOT WANT TO GET OUT OF BED) and finding the underneath-need to get up and go to an 830 HIIT spinning class. Part of me knew that if I did it it would give me the grounding I need for a long day and a tough upcoming family weekend — but my IMPULSE was to stay in bed. Pulling apart the difference between what you feel like in the moment, doing something because it’s on the schedule and another kind of “knowledge” about what’s the right thing to do is kind of complicated — but I was 100% happy in the class and after, and felt like I was really taking care of myself, knowing that the next week will be challenging time-wise. And my body feels worked in exactly the “right” way. AND it would have been okay if I’d stayed in bed if I’d really needed that.

  3. Great post. I’ve been off work with the shutdown and am using this time to make exercising a habit again. I’d fallen off the wagon when I moved to the ‘burbs a year ago and it feels good to be moving daily. It really is amazing how when we actually listen to what our bodies want, and we do it, how much better we feel. I’ve developed a similar relationship to alcohol as you. I enjoy, but don’t miss it, when I don’t have a glass of wine on a Tuesday night. I’ve been drinking Kombucha or kefir in my wineglass instead and feel so much better for it.

    In the last couple years, I’ve had to focus on sleep bc I have an aging dog who gets me up at all hours. This really sucks bc my alarm clock normally goes off about 4:30am. There are loads of great guided sleep meditations on YouTube that I used to get me in the habit of sleep and relaxing at night. I also use an app called Calm that has “sleep stories”, bedtime stories for grownups. I found it via YouTube with a story read by Stephen Fry about the lavender fields of France.
    I now find that even if I’m bingeing on Netflix, my body tells me when it’s time to go to bed.

    This is my first time doing the 219 in 2019 and I’m delighted with how much having that small amount of accountability is really encouraging me to stay on track.

    1. thanks so much for sharing this, Lula — I’m sorry that the shutdown is happening to you — glad it feels like you can do something for yourself during it. Thanks for the Calm recco — I’ve seen it but not picked it up.

      1. If you decide to pay for Calm, look at Groupon. I originally signed up for half off versus paying directly through the app. I’m finding it well worth it.

      2. I don’t see the discount on Groupon right now, but do a google search and there are discounts. Don’t know if they are good. The Calm app has lots of guided meditations, sleep stories, and calming music. I love the sleep stories.

  4. Oh the night snacking, one I’ve been fighting a while now! (a comfort thing, a paired-with-bedtime reading thing, but sometimes GERD/sleep problems and self-loathing ensue also….) I’ll be interested to see how you get on. For some years I had iron control – not that I didn’t snack, but I what I snacked on, when I was eating Paleo – but not so much now, like I’ve used it up in some areas and it’s being taken by more pressing things. (and I had some health things that required more eating for a while) (and oh yes, turning 50 and then menopause – waking up with a different body) My docs would love me drinking 3L of water a day, but no one else would see me as I’d be in the restroom all the time! Still I can try for a bit more. 🙂 The earlier bedtime is a good one. A few years ago, changed starting my “no electronics, in pjs and read till sleepy” start time from 9p to 8p, now mostly asleep around 9 unless it’s a rough night. I think it’s helped. I find my Kindle paperwhite doesn’t mess with my sleep. Means dinner needs to be earlier for me too, challenging.

    I like that you’re trying to do this without beating yourself up.

  5. I know what works for me and it’s an early bedtime. Best if I eat and then go to sleep before I get hungry again. I know, I know, one could snack on healthy food in the evening but I don’t. I’m at my best–on all sorts of fronts–when I’m in bed by 10 and up at 6 or earlier. I know there are successful hard working, night time exercising night owls out there and I’m not criticizing your ways but it’s not me. I never snack mindlessly on healthy food in the morning, only at night. I never watch Netflix in the morning, only at night. So for me, it’s more day, less night that makes a difference in the evenings.

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