3 New habits for 2014

Continuing the theme of my earlier post  I’m trying some new things for 2014. Not massive, life-changing New Year’s resolutions, but smaller changes I’m hoping will have a positive impact.

1. No more Diet Coke

I’ve dropped this completely and actually stopped drinking it before the end of December. I realised it was a slight addiction. As a non-drinker (of alcohol) it was my default drink when out in bars and restaurants. I could easily go through several cans in a single working day, a thought which horrifies me now.

A brief examination of the ingredients – most of which I can’t identify – flagged this up as something to leave behind in 2013. I started to notice article after article highlighting the downsides of excessive consumption.

We’re 11 days into the New Year and I haven’t touched a drop. I’m not even tempted. A definite win in the “new habits” list.

I now cycle between sparkling water, tonic water (delicious with ice and lime) and various teas.

Obviously, I still drink coffee. Life would be unimaginable without it. A few coffees in the morning are required just to jump-start my brain and body. But I’m switching over to teas of various hues in the afternoon.

But overall, dropping Diet Coke has been much easier than I’d predicted. Score one to me!

2. More exercise

Now this might seem a strange statement from someone who’s spent the last few years running like a ferret on speed. But I focused on running to the exclusion of all other exercise, until I damaged my knee running the 2013 London Marathon. Suddenly unable to run, I had nothing else to turn to.

My recovery from the resulting knee surgery in November has been slower than I’d like, and I’m still not running yet. But I have been able to get back in to the gym and exercise other parts of my body! Plus, the physiotherapy has been training me to use muscles that were basically wasting away, damaging my gait and balance.

So, a more rounded exercise regime. And I’ve managed to sustain this most days since I’ve been allowed. Cardio and leg strengthening on a stationary bike, upper body strength training with free weights and now, the glory of the cross-trainer. Which is as close to running as I’ll get for at least a few more weeks.

I feel a lot better for it.

It’s not just about “hitting the gym” though. Walking is a fantastic and low impact exercise and I try to do a lot of this, despite my very sedentary job. I use a Fitbit to track my movements and compete with friends on the same system as to who can do the most steps each day. It works!

3. Tracking my eating

I use the excellent MyFitnessPal app to track what I eat. Noting everything that passes your lips achieves two things: one, it gives you a very clear and accurate view of what precisely you’ve consumed and what kind of nutritional value it has. You can use this information to inform weight loss or other health targets and also look for trends in what you’re eating when.

Secondly, it can make you more mindful about eating. What I mean by this is a quick glance at my intake of salt or calories overall has made me think twice about eating things on a whim. I found myself asking “Do I really want to eat this? Am I really hungry?”

It’s a powerful app that you can use to scan in barcodes of food you eat, giving you a detailed breakdown of ingredients. This is sometimes quite shocking – especially the sugar and salt contents!

If you don’t want to get stuck into the details, you can just view a very simple pie chart setting out relative consumption of carbs, fat and protein.

I’ve found I’m eating on a whim less, making some better food choices and generally becoming more aware of what’s a reasonable amount to eat each day. The complete opposite of my pre-Christmas eating behaviour, which could be described as a race to fill my body with sugar and fat in the form of mince pies.

Handily, MyFitnessPal syncs with FitBit and vice versa – so FitBit tells MyFitnessPal about the calories you’ve burned through walking, while MyFitnessPal’s exercise tracking functionality informs FitBit of any additional exercise you’ve taken (e.g. swimming) while not wearing the device.

And that’s it

So far, at least. Until I’m back running normally and in training for races again. Then we’ll see how things go. But all in all, not a bad start to 2014 – I‘ve lost over 2 kilos since 1st January, based on about 30mins of gym activity per day and some better food choices. And despite the fact I’m still not as active as I’d like, due to my knee surgery.

Not too complicated.

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