Losing Weight in 2020

I think one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions of all time has to be to lose weight and get healthy.

This is a trend I am rather new to…well the losing weight element of it at least. As a child and in my teens I always struggled to put on weight. I hated food, I hated eating and if someone had given me the option of taking a tablet that would give me all my nutritional needs overeating I would have taken it. I didn’t enjoy eating, cooking and thinking about food.

Despite this, about four years ago I made a real conscious effort to start to gain weight. Going from about six-seven stone to pushing nearly ten stone in the run-up to the end of last year. Gaining weight was relatively easy, I did calorie count, but there were no restrictions, I simply tried to eat over 2,500 calories and get as close to 3,000 calories a day.

However, now I am more conscious about my body image. I feel fat around my tummy and my clothes cling to emphasise it. I no longer feel comfortable in my skin and I want to start tackling that. I would like to eat healthier and exercise more – to feel more comfortable in my skin, to improve my mental health and to be a healthier person.

My starting weight on the 1st January from 9st 10lbs. My initial goal is to lose 10 pounds and see how I feel about my weight and how I feel about myself.

My plan for this is to:

  • Limit my consumption of Coca-Cola to 330ml or one can a day.
  • To drink a minimum of 400ml of water, but ideally closer to 1,200ml a day.
  • To increase my consumption of fruit and vegetables trying to consume as many 80g portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • To calorie count, using My Fitness Pal. Weighing all my food as much as possible.
  • Reduce eating out and takeaways.
  • To increase my activity. Ideally completing couch to 5k within a reasonable timeframe (hopefully within three months). To increase my running activity.
  • To challenge my gym attendance, combating anxiety and increasing activity.

Over the past nine days, there have been challenges. Although I had cut from full fat/sugar Coca-cola to sugar-free, I did consume a lot of sugar within my diet. Chocolate was pretty much a daily requirement in my previous diet. The 1st of January, with the optimism of a great year ahead, proved a success for the first day. This was replaced with withdrawal, a lack of caffeine, with cola being my only source of caffeine, and a dramatic reduction in sugar had left with tired, with headaches and not feeling great.

Also, I am somewhat of an obsessive. Particularly with calorie counting. I can be too in control of the numbers, weighing everything and avoiding meals because they would be difficult to quantify and put into the My Fitness Pal app.

Furthermore, there is peer pressure. Living in a house which has temptation and other people’s eating habits can be difficult. Particularly when they are suggesting takeaways or calorific meals. I have stopped calorie counting for four days and just eaten what I have wanted to eat and not restricting how much of it I want to eat. Whilst my initial plan to keep a strict diet has subsided to a more 5:2 diet, with two days being unrestricted, undocumented days of whatever I want and five days calorie-controlled attempts to stick to all the points listed above.

I weighed in on the 1st and 6th. I didn’t think this was a fair assessment of grasping how well I was doing, particularly as it was not a full week and I had my two non-diet days on the 3rd and the 4th January. However, my scales said I had lost half a pound, which is good for the short duration I have been undertaking this challenge.

I do not want to be obsessive. I want to make small and permanent changes that lead to a more positive and healthy me. I know this is not going to be an easy walk in the park but an uphill struggle which will challenge my relationship with food, drink and exercise which has never been a positive relationship. I am hoping that over the next coming months I make headway challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone, eat healthily, drink healthy and exercise.

The Book Challenge

So for 2020, one of my goals is to read more books. Reading for me has always been a chore. I have dyslexia so reading has not been one of my strongest tasks. Often at the end of a busy day at school, I would be too frustrated to read for fun. Later, at University I had a degree that required a lot of reading (actually most degrees require that…) so reading for fun at the end of the day was never an option for me. Reading films as well can also be quite a challenge and requires me to pause the film for a bit and come back to it on occasion.

This year although I would like to see how far I can get down this 100 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die (Ranked!) list from Business Insider.

Although the first thing I did was to change the order. A couple of authors appear on this list more than once (J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling for example), I’ve moved them together so I can follow the book story, rather than chop and change to another book. I have a feeling I would, if I enjoyed the story, wish to continue with it, and for J.R.R. Tolkien in particular, The Lord of the Rings was ranked higher than the Hobbit, even though the Hobbit is set before. With J.K. Rowling I will probably break from the list and read the missing books from the series, so after Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I would read the Chamber of Secrets and then come back to read the Prisoner of Azkaban. Also, I moved the Bronte sisters together as I thought it might be interesting to compare their styles.

One thing that perplexes me about this list is: why does the Lord of the Rings get lumped together as one book, when other series, like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games, get more than one listing on the top 100?

The challenge is to see how far down this list I can get in 12 months. Wish me luck!

  1. Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird
  2. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  3. Anne Frank – The Diary of Anne Frank
  4. George Orwell – 1984
  5. George Orwell – Animal Farm
  6. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  7. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  8. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  9. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings
    1. The Following of the Ring
    2. The Two Towers
    3. The Lord of the Rings
  12. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
  13. E.B. White – Charlotte’s Web
  14. Louisa May Alcott – Little Women
  15. Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
  16. Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre
  17. Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights
  18. Margaret Mitchell – Gone with the Wind
  19. J.D. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye
  20. Markus Zusak – The Book Thief
  21. Mark Twain – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  22. Mark Twain – The Adventure of Tom Sawyer
  23. Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games
  24. Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire
  25. Suzanne Collins – Mockingjay
  26. Kathryn Stockett – The Help
  27. C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia
  28. C.S. Lewis – The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe
  29. John Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath
  30. John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men
  31. John Steinbeck – East of Eden
  32. William Golding – The Lord of the Flies
  33. Khaled Hosseini – The Kate Runner
  34. Elie Wiesel – Night
  35. William Shakespeare – Hamlet
  36. William Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet
  37. Williams Shakespeare  –  Macbeth
  38. Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle in Time
  39. Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
  40. Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol
  41.  Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
  42. Douglas Adams – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
  43. Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden
  44. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – The Little Prince
  45. Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
  46. Lois Lowry – The Giver
  47. Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
  48. Shel Silverstein – Where the Sidewalk Ends
  49. John Green – The Fault in Our Stars
  50. L.M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables
  51. Stieg Larrson – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  52. Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
  53. The Holy Bible: King James Version
  54. Alice Walker – The Color Purple
  55. Alexandre Dumas – The Count of Monte Cristo
  56. Betty Smith – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  57. Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland
  58. Truman Capote – In Cold Blood
  59. Joseph Heller – Catch-22
  60. Stephen King – The Stand
  61. Diana Gabaldon – Outlander
  62. OrsonScott Card – Enders Game
  63. Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina
  64. Richard Adams – Watership Down
  65. Arthur Golden – Memoirs of a Geisha
  66. Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca
  67. George R.R. Martin- A Game of Thrones
  68. Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea
  69. Arthur Conan Doyle – The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (#3)
  70. Victor Hugo – Les Misérables
  71. Yann Martel – Life of Pi
  72. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter
  73. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – Celebrating Silence: Excerpts from Five Years of Weekly Knowledge
  74. Ken Follett – The Pillars of the Earth
  75. Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  76. Bram Stoker – Dracula
  77. William Goldman – The Princess Bride
  78. Sara Gruen – Water for Elephants
  79. Edgar Allan Poe – The Raven
  80. Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees
  81. Barbara Kingsolver – The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel
  82. Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude
  83. Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife
  84. Homer – The Obyssey
  85. Pearl S. Buck – The Good Earth (House of Earth #1)
  86. Agatha Christie – And Then There Were None
  87. Colleen McCullough – The Thorn Birds
  88. John Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meany
  89. Jeannette Walls – The Glass Castle
  90. Rebecca Skloot – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  91. Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment
  92. Cormac McCarthy – The Road
  93. Tim O’Brien – The Things They Carried
  94. Hermann Hesse – Siddhrtha
  95. Toni Morrison – Beloved
  96. Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse
  97. Abraham Verghese – Cutting for Stone 
  98. Norton Juster – The Phantom Tollbooth
  99. Fyodor Dostoyevsky – The Brothers Karamazov
  100. Helen Keller – The Story of My Life

New Beginnings…

A photo I took in 2019 in a nearby park. Thought it symbolised the beginning of this journey nicely.

Hello, I’m Emma and welcome to my blog. It’s the 1st of January 2020, so I imagine today…the day of fresh beginnings and new starts…is a day when a lot of new blogs are starting and this blog is embracing and jumping on that age-old tradition.

This is not my first blog. I have had a few over the last six years. I needed to start one for university, to track progress on an extra-curricular activity I was doing. I enjoyed blogging that experience, writing over the summer for an assessment-based element of the programme I was taking. It is a blog that still exists, it has never been made public.

My second, very brief experience of a blog, started where I attempted to have the random musings of a second-year history student blogging about the current trends of historical thinking, various topics, gaps in the literature. However, in truth, two blog posts in and I had run out of momentum, run out of steam and honestly, I did not have the best university experience. University for me was a battleground, turning up to classes, writing assignments and generally trying to survive it to get to the end goal of getting a degree became an extreme challenge. The blog was just too short narrow a subject, in a field I just was not enjoying at that time and an additional task I did not have time to do. It died a death very, very quickly. I may revisit those two blogs and incorporate them into this blog at some point.

My third blog was my most successful. I started it in August 2015, two summers on from my first blog. It achieved 201 posts and my last post was in October 2018. I’ve not blogged since then. To overcome the problem of a lack of content from my second blog, I incorporated a lot of my life into that blog, various things I was doing, experimenting with and writing reviews of films I saw at the cinema. I think that including elements of that blog, such as the film reviews was a mistake. I saw a lot of films. I had a cinema card where you pay a set amount a month and watch as many as you like for the set monthly price. Often, I could not keep up with the blog posts of each film and in reality, I was not that into films, directors, cinematography from a point where I could contribute meaningfully to a discussion on Films and cinematography. I felt that I was hard-pressed to review a film and I did not enjoy writing the reviews. There were also other elements, a No-Poo Hair Journey (I abandoned that and I am currently full on #TeamShampoo, if there is such a thing?!), I loved using a Filofax and planning, making pages and some of my most successful elements of that blog where those (with the help of Mr Philofaxy himself, Steve Morton who helped to support my blog writing and try to get me into the world of youtube filming). However, life, depression and anxiety got in the way and the blog did die a slow death this time around.

I discussed with my penpal and friend Nicole, about wanting to blog but whether to revive my third blog or start again, I gave her my pros and cons of starting a new blog versus reviving the old one. To her, it seemed like a no-brainer to start again, although she did not quite agree on my waiting until the 1st January 2020 (I kind of agree with her because I actually started writing this blog post on the 9th November 2019…) but there was something positive and amazing about a new start for January that I always try and embrace. One of the cons though was I had posts on the other blog, themes that I might want to continue and I was not ready to abandon them. The work around to that is that you may see elements and reworked posts from that blog come into this one. I still have similar interests from that blog, I still want to write about the same subjects, but I needed that break, that new journey, that new start. However, like everything, A new start comes from somewhere and it is often part-way through that journey of life, so there is a history there. As I have established with this post.

I enjoy writing and now that University has gone, I do not have the forced need to write and research anymore. They are wasted skills; I want to expand more about that. I want to journal and maybe this blog is a digital way of journaling.

What direction is this blog going to go in? I do not know. I cannot tell you. It will be very organic it will grow and reflect my life, my interests, things I have visited. I would like to include some photos if and when I take them. Watch this space. Come on my journey with me and hopefully enjoy the ride. I will try to keep it organised, categorise themes and topics so you will be able to explore elements of it you want to explore and not filter through bits that do not interest you.

I feel that the words of J.R.R. Tolkien resonate with me now…

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

― Bilbo Baggins to Frodo Baggins J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings

I very much would like to be swept off with this journey, this blog, my life, but I think I might need to keep my feet a little bit slow and steady to try to work on consistency and to keep this blog going.

For now, I’ll leave it there for my first post, I hope you enjoyed reading it. I hope you enjoy what is to come.