Beauty in Simplicity

A fond memory I have is of my weekend routine when I was in my early twenties. I lived alone, and for the first time in my life I had a job that gave me weekends off. I liked to get up on Saturday morning, start laundry, and go to the gym to work out. From there I’d do my grocery shopping and run any other errands I had, and then return home to finish the laundry I’d started and to clean my little apartment. Although the place was nearly 900 square feet and spacious for a one-bedroom, it didn’t take much more than an hour to thoroughly clean it. I don’t love the experience of cleaning, but I do love the finished product. I would put on music and light a fragrant candle, so the experience wasn’t unpleasant. Once I finished, I’d take a shower and get ready to go out either on a date or with friends. Sundays were usually just spent relaxing at home, reading a good book or catching up on TV shows while I snuggled with my cats on the couch. It was a simple life, and a very satisfying one, at least as far as I was concerned.

Even though that was over a decade ago, I still remember the happiness I felt during the time in my life when I had that little routine. I know that I am a person who finds the greatest joy in simple pleasures, and I like that about myself. Having more things, even when they’re nice, just increases my anxiety. When I moved out of that cozy apartment and into a lovely, brand-new house a year later with my then-boyfriend, I thought that living in that lovely home with him would increase my happiness. Instead, I found myself feeling very stressed out – by the high price of the mortgage, by the tensions in my relationship with him once we were living together, by feeling very trapped in a job I had grown to hate but that paid me well.

Longtime readers of my blog know the rest: I ultimately left that big house in California and that relationship behind. I’ve learned that I crave an uncomplicated life and have spent the last several years building just that. My relationships with my husband and my friends are loving and free of dramatics. The home Bill and I share is much smaller than that first house I owned, and I love it so much more. Our little place is cozy and comfortable.

My routine these days looks different now than it did in my little apartment, but in many ways it’s the same. I like to get up first thing in the morning and exercise before work. These days my workouts take place in my living room and not in a gym, but I still feel just as accomplished when I finish them. Because I work from home now, I have more free time that was once spent commuting and I can put on music, light a scented candle, and clean the house during the weekday (and now I have Bill’s help!). Our condo is spacious for a two-bedroom but we’re able to do a pretty thorough cleaning in about an hour. On Fridays on my lunch break I pick up our groceries curbside, which is a lot quicker than doing the shopping in the store. Weekends are a relaxing time for us; we can sleep in, and watch movies or go for a drive or take a long walk together.

It’s a simple life, and a satisfying one.

Monthly Goals for February

I don’t usually write two posts on the same day but I wanted to blog my goals for February after recapping how things went in January. While everything didn’t go exactly the way I’d planned, I did learn from my missteps and I have some ideas for adjusting February goals to address the issues I had last month.

Weigh and measure portions. I tracked everything I ate in January, and according to my LoseIt app I only exceeded my calorie goals on six days throughout the month. However, if that were true I would have lost weight in January, which I did not. The most likely reason for this is that I under-tracked the calories I ate. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before today that I needed to weigh out my meals, but now that it has it feels really obvious to me. I might be able to eventually measure out around four ounces of chicken fairly accurately by sight, but I’m willing to bet I’m not doing it right now. I’m prepared for the side effect of this goal being that I’m probably going to be hungrier than normal in February while I adjust to what I suspect will be smaller portions than I’m used to.

Plan snacks for the day in the morning and stick to the plan. I have my weekday breakfasts, lunches, and snacks pre-planned, but I noticed in January that I always crave additional snacks in the afternoons. I think it must be related to the stress of my workdays, because it doesn’t happen on weekends. My go-to weekday snacks are apple slices in the morning and Greek yogurt mid-afternoon, so in February I am going to focus on tracking my snacks in my LoseIt app first things in the morning and then only eating what I had committed to having for snacks.

Finish Season 16 of Grey’s Anatomy. I feel like I need a “fun” goal, so that’s why I’m adding this one. I was an avid Grey’s fan until 2014, when I didn’t have cable service and couldn’t watch the new episodes. I fell way behind on the show, but in 2020 I decided to start it from the beginning and watch all the way through (the show is currently airing Season 17). Bill doesn’t like medical dramas and won’t watch it with me, so I watch an episode or two while I take baths or when he works later than I do, and I’m about halfway through Season 16 now. I want to finish it and start on the current season!

Address my increasing anxiety. Fun fact: being stressed out can make it harder to lose weight. Stress increases cortisol levels, which in turn can cause weight gain. Human bodies haven’t evolved as fast as our environment has, so our bodies largely attribute stress with lack of access to adequate food supply – because that’s what originally stressed people out. High stress levels can bring on fun things like fatigue, increased appetite, thinning skin, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.

I know I have anxiety and I also know that my stress levels have been through the roof lately. I think my problems are a combination of having lived mid-pandemic for nearly a year now and the fact that I’m an empath and other people’s feelings and emotions have a big impact on me.

I know that I can’t meet my weight loss goals OR be happy until I address my anxiety. I have a number of coping mechanisms I’ve been taught over the years to deal with stress and anxiety, and I’ve also reached out to my health insurance provider for a referral to help with mental health.

January Goal Check-In

That felt like the fastest January I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Normally, the first month of the year feels like it drags on for an eternity, but not in 2021! Even though I feel like we were just raising a glass while we counted down to the new year, January is already over and it’s time to make some February Goals. Before I get into my new monthly goals, I thought I’d write a quick check-in on how January went.

Stick to my calorie count goal six days a week. I counted the days that I ate over my calorie goal, and in January there were six days in total – two more days than I’d hoped for, but still better than I’d been doing for the last few months of 2020. I’ve heard about the 80/20 rule (stick to your calorie goal 80% of the time), and I did accomplish that.

What I noticed though, is that even though I tracked everything I ate and believed that I was doing a better job with my eating, I didn’t lose weight in January. I did drop a couple of pounds early on, but those came back by the end of the month so ultimately the changes I made only helped me maintain my current weight. I’m pretty sure that I’m underestimating what I’m eating and tracking fewer calories than I’m actually eating; albeit unintentionally. This is something to address for February.

Weigh myself every day. I achieved this one on 30 out of 31 days (we stayed in a hotel one night and I wasn’t committed enough to this goal to pack my scale along). It was good to have the data, and it definitely showed me that I need to review what I’m doing and make some changes if I want to see weight loss.

Drink more water. I did really well on this one overall. Since I didn’t set a tangible metric I wasn’t measuring ounces or anything like that, but I definitely got into the habit of filling up my Hydro Flask for the day and drinking more water.

No alcohol. Dry January had….a few showers. We gave in to the urge and had drinks with dinner on four nights last month. But that was a huge improvement for us!

Average 7,500 steps/day each week. I didn’t quite make it with this one. Overall for the month of January I averaged 6,307 steps per day, which was quite a bit short of my goal. The biggest reason I didn’t make it was the record rainfall in Washington last month; there were multiple days where it was absolutely pouring outside and it was just too gross outside for walking. I’m hoping that as we move into spring that I’ll be able to get out more. I miss my walks!

I don’t really know how to feel about January. Going in, I thought I had set realistic goals that I could easily meet and that would guarantee me weight loss, but obviously that turned out not to be true. Some changes I’m pleased with, others not so much, and I’m going to take those feelings into account for my February goals. I’m using this as data to adjust my goals and habits and not beating myself up over not achieving everything I’d planned, because one of my 2021 Resolutions was to be nicer to myself. I’m still on track for all of my resolutions, so that’s a very good thing!