Every year I ask my mother what her new year resolution is. She says she’s giving up chocolate. It lasts about 3 days. Sound familiar? Sure, I’ve made major life decisions which I have adhered to over the years, but I’m pretty sure that none of them were ever the result of a new year resolution. In fact I struggle to think of a single new year resolution which wasn’t a complete failure. So I’ve come up with 10 achievable changes to incorporate into my life for 2014.
1) More Family Time
A while ago I made the decision that my job should make me as happy as the rest of my life does and I started training to become a Nutritional Therapist. This has involved me keeping my day job while attending class on most weekends. My work-school-life balance has been less than ideal for a while now and so this week I made the decision to reduce my hours at work and switch to a weekday class schedule, which will once again free up my weekends to once again spend Saturday mornings at Borough Market with my husband again or exploring Telegraph Hill with the dog…or even just spending a lazy morning on the sofa with a mug of tea and a copy of the Sunday Times.
2. Grow Where You’re Planted
Maybe this one only applies to me. I’ve spent my whole life thinking “life will be perfect when we move to….” and “when we get a bigger house then we can……”. But maybe I just need to learn to love the space I’m in and cherish what I’ve got. I have a warm and beautiful home with enough space to welcome our friends and a garden where I can enjoy the sun in the summer. We live in a great neighbourhood with access to plenty of parks. There’s always going to be something bigger and better and somewhere else that seems more exciting. And who knows what the future might hold? But right now, maybe I just need to nurture the little plot where I’m planted right now.
3. Eat More Coconut Oil
Hey this is an easy one. Coconut oil is great. I’m a little biased because I love the stuff. Its great for healthy skin (applied topically or when eaten regularly), for shiny hair (again, either applied topically or eaten regularly….or both!), for brain function (appearing to play a role in the reduction of dementia and Alzheimer’s), and it contains high levels of lauric acid which can kill fungi, harmful bacteria and viruses. Yes, its a saturated fat, but its structurally different to other saturated fats and is metabolised differently. It fills you up, reducing your overall intake of calories, and even promoting a reduction in abdominal fat. You know…your spare tire. But make sure that you buy the raw, virgin, cold-pressed organic stuff.
4. Take Your Vitamins. (Not Just Buy Them)
I’ve got better with this over the last year, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. I spend a lot of money on good quality supplements and when I take them, I feel great. I try to keep it down to a minimum, so I’m not rattling as I walk down the street, but there are a few vitamins I take as well as a couple of herbal tinctures and a fantastic breakfast shake which balances my blood sugar from morning to early afternoon because I really REALLY don’t wan to get diabetes! That being said, I don’t particularly want my life to revolve around my vitamin schedule, but I do think it would improve my overall wellbeing if I just take the vitamins I’ve got when I’m supposed to take them. (Even the yucky ones with kelp and spirulina that stink like low tide on a hot day and make me want to barf every time I take them.) Its called structure. I have very little of that in my life.
5. Walk More – 10,000 Steps
“You know what, I really need to start walking less” said no one, ever. Okay, that sounded like one of those glib Facebook shares and perhaps somewhere it is. But really, walking is so good for you, and if you are at all able to engage in this exercise (i.e. not in a wheelchair or completely bedridden) then get out and walk some more. I’m not really a pedometer kind of a person, but depending on your height and gait, 10,000 steps a day is between 5 and 8 kilometres. There is a plethora of evidence that 10,000 steps a day will burn excess calories, improve heart health and also can improve mental health. Any times in the past when I’ve gone through a difficult period, I know that walking has been my drug of choice. I walk, walk and walk some more. And when I think I can’t walk anymore, I just keep going. This year I definitely plan to reignite my love of this simple activity – and best of all, its free!!!
6. Think About Where Your Money Goes – Shop Local & Shop Strategically
Your pound, dollar, peso, whatever, is the best communication tool in the world. Its better than Twitter, Facebook. customer feedback groups or the Amazon star rating system. Because in the end, like it or not, the world is about money. Every purchase you make tells companies (both big and small) what to keep making and tells stores what to keep stocking on their shelves. For instance, today the average person in Britain consumes 36.4 kilos of sugar each year. In 1997 that figure was 29.5 kilos. This trend tells companies to produce more consumables (can you really call it food?) with sugar and to continue to make sweet foods sweeter. By thinking about which companies, products and values we are supporting before spending our money, and taking into account the impact that even one person’s spending habits can have (remember that 36.4 kilos of sugar per year we’re all eating? That’s over 230 million kilos of sugar in Britain alone), we are shopping strategically and helping to set the marketplace of the future.
7. Try Something Different
Everyone gets caught up with crazy, restrictive or just plain unhealthy new year diets. We suddenly realise we have to lose a whole whack of kilos which we just spent the last 6 months gaining and expect to lose it in two weeks. Well, it don’t work like that, honey. So instead of putting pressure on yourself, just remember how to enjoy real food and exercise again. I find diet books exhausting. They provide such rigid protocols I feel bored before I’ve even finished the second chapter. But you know what? Some different ways of eating are both really healthy and really fun. For instance, in the spring, summer and early autumn months, I love eating a lot of raw vegan food. There are some great bloggers out there with recipes that are so much fun to try: Fully Raw Kristina, Fragrant Vanilla Cake and Live.Love.Raw. Try it for a day. A week. A month. Or even just one meal. I’ve always been a little intimated to try eating Paleo, so on 1 January Mr Harris and I agreed to do it together. There was no pressure – no commitment to adhere to it for any set length of time. Just to see how we got on with it. And you know what – it couldn’t be easier having a grain-free lifestyle. It makes the weekly shopping trip quick and easy (just fish, meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables and nuts!) and if I feel I just can’t get on without a bit of dairy, well, then I have a bit of cheese made from organic sheep or goats’ milk, which are much easier to digest. Its not about discomfort and deprivation. We might keep eating this way for another week. We might keep eating this way forever. But I’m just pleased that we tried it. (And don’t forget to combine it with resolution number 5 above: Walk More!)
(Uh oh…where’s she going with this?) Meditation doesn’t have to mean a prayer rug and incense. It can mean whatever it needs to mean to you to calm the near constant hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system which so many of us experience in our everyday lives. We react to the so called ’emergencies’ in our work environments in the same way our bodies evolved to react to say, an attacking tiger. While intellectually we can tell the difference, unfortunately our nervous system can’t, and adrenal fatigue is just all too common from overstimulation of the fight or flight instinct. So what helps? Meditation is one thing that can help. You can sit on a prayer rug and silently empty your mind. You can tune into Oprah & Deepak on their regular 21 day meditation sessions. You can find a group of like minded people who enjoy chanting and ohm your hearts out. I find it difficult to clear my mind unless I’m focusing on some type of gentle, preferably repetitive movement like walking or rock climbing, or being guided through yoga or tai chi. I’ve even achieved a clear mind when swimming, looking at the bottom of the ocean floor or the tiles of the pool, and just focusing on gliding through the water while causing as little rippling as possible. Or I don’t know, go fly fishing. Just something quiet to take you away from the stimuli and scheduling of the rest of your life: away from mobile phones, television, computers, wifi, traffic, screaming children and loved ones asking when dinner is ready and where the toilet paper is kept. And by ‘you’, I mean ‘me’.
9. Eat a Carrot a Day
Yes, I am going to eat a carrot a day. I told you these were achievable resolutions. I could bang on for days about the health benefits of carrots , but here’s a new one for me. Raw carrots contain a type of undigestible fibre that binds excess oestrogen (and other toxins) and prevents them from being reabsorbed in the intestine. Instead, your body can then focus its resources on progesterone and thyroid (yay!), rather than cortisol and oestrogen (boooooo). And apparently all within just a few days of regular use. (Ditto for bamboo shoots, by the way, in case for some reason you prefer those to carrots.) Unfortunately, oatmeal – though also a good source of fibre – won’t do the trick. This is because oatmeal provides good food for bacteria. Not necessarily a bad thing, but the resulting bacterial endotoxins can put a chronic strain on the liver (liver processes toxins remember?), and divert its focus from storing enough sugar to process thyroid and other hormones….which could be the reason for the hormone imbalance in the first place.
And why do we care about too much oestrogen? Less oestrogen means less strain on the liver, less inflammation overall and improved thyroid health. Oh yeah, and boys, it also means less likelihood of you getting a nice set of moobs.
10. Bake a Cake
Not just one cake. Cakes on a regular basis. And tea too. Because what’s a home without a cup of tea and a slice of cake (in my case delicious almond, honey & orange Paleo cake) on a Sunday afternoon?