why I’m setting monthly goals on lockdown | April Goals 2020

2020, creativity, goals

Hello!

These past few weeks have been absolutely mad, haven’t they? I’m now in my third week of isolation (though I’ve been out a few times to go to the shops for food because I don’t have any alternatives) and I was quite peppy at first, looking forward to time at home with my boyfriend and catching up on my mammoth to do list.

Now the motivation to do any uni work is drying up and the fact this is life for a few weeks, maybe months is starting to set in and my mental health is taking a knock, but I’m trying my best to stay positive – not putting any pressure to ‘achieve’ anything and trying to listen to my body and be gentle with myself.

But with that in mind, I’m still trying to maintain a routine of some sort and I’ve been setting monthly mini goals for upwards of two years now (just looked it up – I started in March 2018, so definitely two years!). These goals really help me focus and I love seeing myself making progress, it’s incredibly satisfying, so I’m going to try and uphold that while we’re all safe in lockdown!

With the COVID-19 crisis in mind, I’ve tried to keep these goals as relevant and achievable as I can. What everyone determines as ‘achievable’ is so personal – some people are still working, whether it be from home or as key workers, and these people are saints, some people are finding these times really difficult and getting out of bed and feeding themselves is a challenge, so please don’t compare yourself or what you’re doing to my personal goals because they’re just that – personal goals.

1. Workout once a week – it’s been one of my goals forever to lose weight, eat healthier and find a fitness routine I can maintain and thus far it’s not worked very well. However with all this time at home and so many amazing influencers offering so many workouts for free, now is the prime time for me to give them a go. But I’m not aiming to workout three times a week – although it doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s those kinds of numbers that always pile up on me so for now I’m starting at one. Depending on how the month goes I can adjust the goal from there but for now just one. I started on April 1st with one of Joe Wicks live ‘PE’ classes and it was tough but I did it!

2. No snacking – with health and fitness in mind, being home so much more these past few weeks has meant that all I want to do is snack. Bored? Snack. Thirsty? Snack. Need motivating? Snack. Dehydrated? Body is misinterpreting that as HUNGRY, therefore; snack. Having more time to tune in to my body, I’m going to try and learn what different feelings mean (it sounds pretentious but stick with me) – logically I want to snack because I’m restricting at lunch time, so I’m experimenting with having a more filling lunch to last me through till dinner. Being home and trying to go out as little as possible means I want to make our food last as long as possible so now’s the time to try and figure out for the sake of food efficiency and being a bit healthier!

3. Maintain routine and keep up with uni work schedule – to no one’s surprise, my masters (that was already incredibly unorganised and is in the process of being complained about) is right up in the air. My assignments are all being rewritten, unit’s are completely different and there’s a lot of ‘if the uni is open by X time’ being thrown about so it’s very uncertain and granted, two of my lecturers are absolute stars and are doing so much to try and make it work. For the sake of my mental health, I need to keep up with to do lists and trying to get something done every single day but I can see a future me where that is more challenging, so I want to adapt as I go along to keep up with the work I need to do so I don’t fall into a slump where I become one with the sofa. Little things like making an effort to sit on a chair at a table rather than the sofa (or my bed) make a surprising difference!

4. Work on COVID-19 bucket list with spare time – maybe ‘bucket list’ is the wrong phrase, more like ‘here’s a list of all the thing’s I said I’d do when I had more time and if I don’t write them down I’ll forget’. I’ve already done a couple of things on the list – I sorted out the stuff in the alcove and my tee blanket is very much in progress – but I’m making a big effort to manage my time to include things like these that are just for me and don’t serve a ‘greater purpose’ other than my personal enjoyment.

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Sometimes in a spur of the moment, you've got to get our the coloured pens and write a list ✍️🖍️🌈 ✨ Generally, I'm handling all this fear mongering and isolation better than I thought I would – especially with a master's degree that's now completely up in the air. But yesterday I felt the urge to write a multicoloured list of the things I want to do whilst I don't have to commute to Oxford and I have more time than I've had in years. Granted, I still have other important things to do and I'm not going to tick this list off quickly, but I wanted to make it so I don't forget. If I carry on at this pace, this list will last me the months that the virus is looking like it'll be around for! I'm trying to find the positives in isolation 😖 ✨ I was going to leave it at 'pretty colours' and post like a normal person but I'm a writer, I've always been a writer and writing is what I do – so I'm going to keep writing.

A post shared by Sophie (@sophiecountsclouds) on

5. Use film camera up, take fun photos around the house – I may have jumped the gun on this one and used up all my film at the beginning of the week and now I’ve realised I can’t get it developed anywhere and I don’t want a second film just sitting in my camera for the sake of it, I’m not rushing to put a second one in. But I might use my DSLR more instead! The one thing that’s taking me a long time to get my head around is manual photography – I’m getting there but I’m still learning so solidifying those skills will help my film photography when I get back to it.

Whenever I write long blog posts like this I remember how therapeutic blogging is for me and why it’s something I’ve kept up for over five years. I’m considering working it into my schedule to write two posts a week again but ideas are what I’m lacking in! I want my blog to be meaningful so it’s finding the balance between the two.

Let me know what you think! I hope you’re happy, safe and healthy in these scary times and please tell about all your tips and tricks for this strange time in lockdown, quarantine, isolation, social distancing (and all the other phrases that are being thrown around).

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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April Goals!

2019, goals

Hello!

At the beginning of every month I get so excited about a new month, a fresh start and a new focus – deciding on what goals to work on this month! It only gets better when the month starts on a Monday, now that makes my heart happy.

Last month’s goals didn’t go very well – I got a bit too in over my head and expected far too much of myself and with a lot of unexpected last minute plans, I didn’t make a lot of progress on many (if any) of last month’s goals. But rather than letting that hold me back, I’m using what I learnt from it to adapt my goals for this month.

And this is what I’ve come up with!

  1. Make driving progress – I started practising test routes in my lessons in March and I convinced myself I would be ready to book my test at the end of the month and then when I wasn’t ready it was a massive bummer to have set myself the goal of booking the test and failed! So this month I’m adapting that goal slightly – I want to make progress and be closer to booking my test. When I book the test isn’t important but making progress and being for it is what I should focus on!
  2. Focus on diet – I was at a point where I was happy with smaller portions and better food and I want to get back to that, being more aware and putting more effort in is a start (she says as she samples a selection of macarons from last months trip to Paris! It’s all about compromise!)
  3. Work on photography – At the end of this month I’m going to a dance convention and last time I went to this convention, I took a lot of photos that I was really pleased with. Four or five years later I want to have made some improvement! I want to learn more and take technically better photos, so I need to go and practice with my Canon 100D – especially if I want to justify upgrading it at the end of the year.
  4. Start job applications again – it’s a little soul destroying, especially as it’s approaching a year since I finished my degree and graduated, but I’m not going to get anyone if I don’t try. I’m working with the careers team at my old uni to see if they can help and I am working as much as I can in my current job to tide me over. Just got to keep trying, I want to carry on doing the digital marketing course with Google Digital Garage and I’m going to carry on researching going to do a masters degree and something hopefully will figure itself out for me!
  5. Camp NaNoWriMo – another writing challenge! I’m training myself every other month for November’s 50,000 word NaNoWriMo challenge – in February I wrote 20,000 words in 28 days so this month I’m aiming for 25,000 words in 30 days! I wasn’t too sure what I was going to write about and then I had a very strange dream on the last night of March that I had to write down as soon as I woke up because I felt so compelled to develop and work on so that’s my last minute project!

The way I make my goals is generally by picking one thing from each of the categories in my New Year’s Resolutions (link), having a glance at my ten ‘bucket list’ style goals for the year and see if any of those are relevant, then anything else that’s relevant! It works really well for me to have lots of lists of goals – between 2019 goals, monthly goals, weekly tasks and even a 5 year plan/goals chart I have no reason to feel like I don’t have anything to do!

That being said, I still feel a bit lost sometimes – I’m still looking for a graduate job and with it coming up to a year since I finished my degree and graduated, it gets harder and harder to motivate myself but with all these lists and personal goals, even if my life takes a different turn I’ve always got something to focus on!

If you make monthly goals, tell me what they are! Are you still working on your New Year’s Resolutions? Let’s share and motivate each other!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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how I lost 16lbs without dieting

2019, fitness, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

I feel like I’ve been banging on about how I’m trying to lose weight in literally everything I make or post. But here we are again because losing weight is really hard so if I can contribute anything and help someone, I’m going to try!

I really dedicatedly started trying to lose weight (and started seeing results) at the beginning of October. Now, nearly 4 months later I’m 16lbs down, I’m on my way to being fitter and I really feel like I’m making sustainable life changes! All without going on any fad diet or ridiculous workout program that makes you want to vomit. So, I thought I’d just have a little chit chat about the steps I took to get to this point, where I see my progress going in the future and how I’m going to maintain a healthy weight when I get there.

Let’s give a little bit of context – when I was a teenager, I was so convinced I was huge. I felt fat, I thought everyone thought I was essentially an elephant waddling round school and alongside that my main source of exercise being dance meant I was surrounded by skinny gorgeous girls in leotards and the fact my arms wobbled and I had that little stomach pouch (that basically every woman has) was literally the end of the world. At that point I was wondering somewhere around 12 stone/13 stone. Looking at height/weight charts, I was on the heavier end of healthy, but I was healthy.

Then I went to uni, got a boyfriend and had to massively cut down the amount of dancing I was doing. And here we have a recipe for packing on the pounds.

Without going into (even more) detail, by the time I moved home from uni in July last year I was approximately 5 stone heavier than when I left. Even though I didn’t actually look that drastically different.

  • step 1cut out the snacks

My biggest problem and the first thing I wanted to address was that when I was hungry, I just found something to eat. I knew I had to get used to not snacking throughout the day so it was a couple of painful weeks of being absolutely ravenous and craving every carb under the sun, I really noticed a change in my body’s eating habits and it kind of blew me away, because I think I’d tricked myself into believed that it couldn’t change and I would always be that hungry.

It feels awful at the beginning but it does get better and it does get easier I promise.

  • step 2 – think about what you’re eating and try to make healthier choices

I know this sounds so ridiculously vague and I definitely don’t know enough about nutrition but I know that vegetables are good, pastry is a complete no go, carbs are okay in moderation – little things like that! Basically everything is okay in moderation. I plan it so during the week I’m much stricter – I have my cornflakes for breakfast, roast vegetables with cous cous for lunch, a reasonably healthy dinner and 200 calories of dessert snack – then at the weekend I’ll maybe have a toastie for lunch, a McDonalds meal and a Saturday night dessert treat. Within reason of course but doing this I’ve been losing 1-3 lbs every week.

You don’t need to eat foods like kale and avocado and spinach if you don’t like them – every healthy eating recipe I’ve ever looked at includes those kinds of foods, quinoa and seeds and things but I don’t like them. I know that the vegetables I’m eating are good for me, even if these ‘superfoods’ would be better, I’m going to work within what I like and what I can afford. It’s all about balance and learning and we all progress at our own rates.

People will try to tell you that everything is bad – I’ve had people try to tell me that I shouldn’t have sausages, cous cous makes you bloated and hot chocolate is really bad for you but I’m happy with my diet and it’s working for me and it’s sustainable which is the whole point of this, otherwise I might as well just go on a diet.

The other thing I’ve found with making healthier choices is that I really understand now when people say they feel groggy after eating unhealthily – I think it was over Christmas I really started to feel the impact that the change in my eating habits brought and it wasn’t great, but it was also really interesting because it meant that I’d been eating well enough that eating badly made an impact! I really felt it! And that motivated me to start eating well again and it was so refreshing.

Step 3 – be more active

I don’t mean go to the gym or hire a personal trainer or go mad spending lots of money on a program that ‘guarantees results in two weeks’ (I’ve already bought it, it’s not worth it) – I mean literally being more active. For me, my FitBit is a god send because keeping track of my steps and heart rate really helps me see that I’m doing enough each day. I like to change my step goal every week, so I look at the total number of steps for the previous week, then I figure out how many steps I need to do per day to beat it the following week. I think this is a good long term plan because it makes doing more steps part of your everyday life and slowly builds up how much exercise you’re doing.

And then when you feel ready you can start introducing more traditional workouts if you like – I started going to tap classes at my old dance school and I use the Nike training app to build a program that works for me and do workouts at home.

Being back at tap has shown me so much about myself – the whole reason I started this routine to be healthier was because I was noticing I couldn’t do simple things like jump, run up the stairs, I even noticed my walking pace was getting slower and I decided I didn’t want to live like this. I don’t want to be a mum that can’t jump and dance with her kids or isn’t physically fit and healthy enough to keep up with them, I don’t want to teach them bad habits so I’m making a change long before I actually have kids.

Not happening for another 7 or 8 years yet!

  • the next steps

I know that eating and exercising this way will only work to a point and then I will need to start exercising more to get the results that I want. So looking ahead to that I’m going to work out more, building on my current scheme of 1-2 workouts a week for more intense, longer and potentially more frequent workouts. I’d like to get into running and start each day with a walk or a run but that’s very much a work in progress, going to keep walking for now.

When I can drive I want to get a gym membership and actually go to a gym (currently I live just a bit too far away to walk and I can’t afford it) – one of my goals for the year was to have a personal training session. Whether it’s just one or I can afford to have consistent sessions, I want to learn more about weight training, the right kind of working out and how I can progress more in the future to continue losing weight.

In the long game, my goals are to be slim and healthy and then work on getting a bit more toned once I’ve lost the weight (I explained it more in this video) but that will probably be months if not a year or two down the line so I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

So that’s everything I’ve done and learnt up to this point! I’m always looking for new recipes and new workouts – I’m going to have a go at some FitBit workouts and I might have a look at some Kayla Itsines workouts but 1) her app is expensive and 2) the workouts I’ve done from Facebook videos have been killer so definitely not ready for it yet.

Also a step I kind of forgot about – drink 2 litres a day, preferably water but I don’t like water and the juice I drink is sugar free and basically water anyway. Obviously 2 litres of cola isn’t going to help your teeth or your diet.

If you have any recommendations or suggestions for new recipes to try, workouts I should have a go at or any advice for losing weight without cutting food groups or anything drastic, please to leave a comment down below! I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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you can keep your health kick

2018, lifestyle, photography, student

Hello!

I’m someone who’s been talking about a ‘health kick’, ‘dieting’ and ‘losing weight’ for as long as I can remember – there’s never been a point that I can remember where I’ve been happy with my weight (exhibit a and bbut for some reason, after a particularly positive brain day earlier this year – I’ve given up.

Hating myself and being so desperate to lose weight and making myself sad about it (and consequently comfort eating) clearly wasn’t working so why bother?

Now that’s not to say I’m suddenly full of self confidence and I love my body – that’s still not true at all – however, I’m done punishing myself physically and mentally for no progress. The traditional diet associated phrases are gone and I’m calling it my ‘lifestyle routine’ – because that’s what I, and I think most people, want. We want sustainable changes, not yo yo dieting.

So this is what I’m doing:

  • I’m not cutting food groups out of my diet – it’ll just make me sad and any weight I lose would go straight back on if and when I reintroduce the group to my diet.
  • I am planning every meal I eat in advance – having the control in planning is something that’s working really well for me mentally, so I can schedule in a McDonalds as long as I don’t substitute my other meals (this is also helping with my budgeting).
  • I’m aiming to go to the gym at least once a week – Sunday workouts are going quite well for me, if I can squeeze in another workout (whether that be at home or at the gym) it’s a bonus but I’m not putting pressure on myself to go all the time. If I work up to that then great, but for now I’m starting with one day a week.
  • I’m learning about HIIT workouts – I’ve been doing one very basic beginning Kayla Itsines workout that I got from a Facebook video and seeing progress is so rewarding! The first time I did it I only managed two sets and nearly threw up and the second time I did it I managed all three (bar one exercise that I couldn’t face doing a third time). I’ve only done it twice so far because my gym doesn’t really have space for body weight workouts like that one but I’m planning to implement one at home workout a week into my schedule – but all in good time!
  • I’m trying to do as many steps a day as possible – I’ve loved wearing my Fitbit for about a year now and I’m fascinated by the data it tracks. I’m not forcing myself to do 10,000 steps but Wednesday (for example) is a really long uni day for me and I usually do very few steps, however I managed to do 10,299 steps last Wednesday and I’m classing that as a little victory!

There’s other things I’ve had to think about alongside this – all of these lifestyle changes are second to finishing my degree and uni work comes first but the point of these changes is that hopefully they’ll slot into my life and I can continue as normal. Though, to be fair, I’ve spent longer making a meal plan this week than doing uni work (sorry mum).

I’m hoping to see some changes both in my weight, my mental health and my general health (because according to my Fitbit, sometimes my heart spends 10 hours a day in the ‘fat burn’ zone and 1) I’m definitely not burning fat and 2) It should not be that high) but if nothing else, I’ll be living a healthier lifestyle and dedicating more time to cooking which I thoroughly enjoy.

If you have any workout tips or healthy recipes please do let me know in the comments or on Twitter – I love trying new recipes and I don’t know a lot about workouts so would greatly appreciate any help!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

 

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top 4 tips for starting a health kick

2017, lifestyle, student

 

Hello!

This is another one from my ‘blog ideas‘ book which suggested ‘Your top 3 _ game changers’ – I’ve recently gone on a full on health kick because I’m really unhappy with my weight and I know I can talk about this topic with a little bit of knowledge behind it.

I’ve just started week 3 of a 28 day health (ish) plan and I thought I’d share the four things that really helped me get started and why I chose to do a 28 day plan.

Number 1 – I hit rock bottom

Obviously I don’t recommend this, but when I hit a certain weight it was the real kick up the bum I needed to actually started looking after my body, learn more about how to look after my body and do something about it. I used some Amazon vouchers I got for Christmas to buy a couple of weight loss books and I downloaded apps and I was ready to start.

Number 2 – Kayla Itsines’ The Bikini Body 28-Day Health Eating & Lifestyle Guide: 200 Recipes, Weekly Menus, 4-Week Workout Plan

I’ll be honest, the title is longer than I remember and the way I’m doing the plan deserves a big ‘ish’ but this book is a god send and I’ve already recommended it to a few people and my wonderful friend Nikki has actually bought it because 1) it’s brilliant and 2) I’m just so persuasive.

I love this book because it’s almost like having a personal trainer or a dietitian but without the price – it gives you guidance on how much of each food group you should be eating and what kind of exercise you should be doing, I just feel so much more informed about how I should be looking after myself.

In terms of the diet plan, I’m not following it day-to-day just because I’m quite a picky eater and I don’t want to make myself eat food I won’t enjoy and I want this diet to be sustainable, so I went through the whole book and wrote down all the recipes I was interested in or knew I’d like, then I drew out a four week plan and spaced out all the healthy recipes and filled in the rest of the days with healthy-ish recipes that I already knew and it’s not hard to follow because on some days I’m doing recipes that I know and love and on other days I get to try cooking a new thing and I love cooking so it’s a win-win.

For me, losing weight was a lot of being told what to do with my body to make it look better than it does now.

Number 3 – Nike+ training app

Again, being told how to work out works well for me. If I could afford the gym membership or the personal trainer I think I would but for now, I’m a student and that’s not going to happen. You can work out as much or as little as you like, you need no equipment and the app is completely free – I found that setting up a ‘Plan’ means that I don’t have to pick the workouts and I’m given the ones suitable for my level and my goal, which is losing weight.

There are for sure hundreds of other apps out there so if this app doesn’t work for you, there might be another that does!

Number 4 – fitbit flex (and fitbit app)

My mum offered to buy me a fitbit and at first I wasn’t sure I’d be interested – why would I care about tracking steps right? But I do now! It motivates you so much to go out and make sure you’re doing as many steps as you can and that’s not even the app, that’s just me being overly competitive with my past self.

I voluntarily walked to a Sainsburys supermarket out of the way from where I live just because it was a nearly-3-mile round walk and it was just for the steps (and to buy this amazing flavoured water that I can’t find anywhere else).

I also track what I’m eating, how much water I’m drinking, how my weight is changing and it apparently knows how much I’m sleeping too, all round useful device and app.

It’s also very useful that you can use the app without the fitbit – in terms of steps, most phones can count steps too so you don’t even need to buy a fitbit itself.

I hope this has been helpful in any way, shape or form! The last thing I will say is that working out, like revision or money management or anything else, is very personal and different things work for different people. Sometimes you have to experiment a lot before you find what works for you and that can be disheartening but it’s okay, because you will find what works for you.

If you’re struggling and feel like you need more guidance, I’d recommend going to your GP and finding a professional to talk to.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

 

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