(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!)
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.
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?
- 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.
- Develop a more mindful relationship with snacking.
- 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!