Why Am I Doing a Weekly Wellness Challenge?

Weekly Wellness Challenge

Last year I did both Dry January and Yoganuary and this year I am doing Veganuary. Apparently there is evidence that it takes between 3 weeks and a month to develop a habit, but I have to admit that I did not actually continue abstaining from alcohol after Dry January, and I can’t really say I kept up a regular yoga practice throughout the whole of last year. So despite sticking with both these activities for a full month, thoroughly enjoying the experiences, and finding them fairly easy to implement, they did not develop into habits. But why? Well, I think the reason is that when you give up something completely, or try and do something every single day without fail, it becomes difficult to keep up such extreme habits when everyday life starts to get in the way. And as soon as you start to slip, it gets easier and easier to fall back into your old habits. That said, things might be different when you have a very strong motivation for making a change. I feel a lot more passionately about eating a plant-based diet than I did about abstaining from alcohol or practicing yoga (and it wasn’t such an extreme change as I had already been eating a predominantly plant-based diet for about 2 months prior) so I think I am very likely to carry on Veganuary past February…

Right now I’m not really looking to make any more big changes to my life, but I have learned from these experiences that I really enjoy challenging myself. I don’t think it makes sense for me to wait until next January to try out something new and so, purely for fun, I have decided to test myself throughout the year and implement a Weekly Wellness Challenge. Each Sunday I will set myself a health and wellness related challenge or goal for the coming week, and I will share my progress on my Instagram stories with the hashtag #40ishloveWWC. Some of these wellness habits may stick, many probably won’t, but by sharing these challenges on social media I will be motivated to try out a number of new healthy activities that I probably wouldn’t otherwise bother to try. I won’t put myself under any pressure (as I already have a fairly busy fitness life with tennis training twice a week, tennis matches, Pilates and Kayla Itsines’ Sweat app!), and instead I’ll use it as a learning experience, to see if there are any healthy practices out there that I would actually like to implement more regularly in my life. I have already been brainstorming about the types of challenges I will set myself, and they cover various topics from food to fitness to flexibility to feelings. I’ll be looking to Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for inspiration, and if you have any suggestions on what I could/should do, just let me know in the comments below! For week one I have decided to work on my tight hamstrings and I plan do ragdoll for 3 mins each day (as described by Cat Meffan on one of her YouTube videos). Remember to follow me on Instagram to see how it goes!

Actually, why don’t you join me on the challenge?! If you subscribe to my newsletter using the form at the bottom of this page, you will receive my newsletter every Sunday and I’ll share the upcoming Weekly Wellness Challenge with you!


My Dry January Progress | Week 4 (The End!)

This is my last post on Dry January, even if there are still 3 days to go. The thing is, I know I won’t drink anything before the end of the month, so there is no need for me to wait until then to write this. Though I did read this morning that supermarkets in the UK are braced for a spike in alcohol sales today as people are expected to put an early end to Dry January…. But I also read in a lot of the comments to that article that people who have gone through Dry January are also thinking about doing Dry February too, given how good they feel. I am also inclined to continue abstaining from alcohol, though I won’t necessarily ban alcohol from my life forever. I don’t want to get into the habit again of drinking at home every night, but I can see myself having the odd Aperol Spritz or glass of wine with a meal in a restaurant or at a dinner party.

This week I came to the UK and it was probably the first time I went out for dinner in London without drinking alcohol. And it was fine. It was easy. But funnily enough I still didn’t wake up feeling great as my body now seems to have hangovers from food, and my digestive system complained from all the treats I gave it! I am sure not everyone is as sensitive as me to what they consume, and so I think we each have to learn what works for us, without religiously following the various diet plans and fads that are out there. I prefer to feel less bloated, to feel more hydrated, to digest food more easily, to have more energy and so I am learning what to consume in order to feel like that 95% of the time, but I also have that other 5% to enjoy flapjacks, chocolates, cookies, muffins, pizzas, Prosecco….

I am sure my body has gone through many great changes this month due to the lack of alcohol, but I can’t personally see any radical improvements to my skin and I’m not sure I lost weight purely from drinking less alcohol (as I also improved my diet and did Yoga everyday). I definitely sleep better now and typically wake up feeling more refreshed and less dehydrated. Apparently my liver should have started to shed any excess fat it may have built up in the past, and if I continue avoiding alcohol my red blood cells should start to renew. That should allow the cells to transport oxygen more efficiently around the body, and give me even more energy. For me, these are good enough reasons to continue cutting out alcohol from my everyday life.

So I am not planning on cracking open a bottle of wine on the 1st February to put an end to my alcohol fast, and that to me is the biggest achievement I could have hoped for from Dry January.

My Dry January Progress | Week 3

Much like last week’s progress post, this isn’t really going to be about alcohol, as I have found it fairly easy to avoid alcohol so far this Dry January. I think this might be because I know that there is an end to this ‘alcohol ban’? The thing is, I don’t want to go back to drinking too much alcohol when January is over. I keep wondering if I should just continue to avoid alcohol, or whether I will be able to introduce alcohol back into my life in a balanced way.

As I mentioned last week, I want to be able to drink the odd alcoholic drink when I feel like it, without getting back into the bad habit of drinking half a bottle of wine each night. In the same way, I want to be able to eat a pizza or a chocolate brownie when I feel the need, but I don’t want to mindlessly eat foods that don’t make me feel good. I tend to move from one extreme to another: either being strict on myself or letting myself eat and drink whatever I want. In preparation for introducing alcohol back into my life in a more mindful way, I spent this week trying to find a balance between eating wholesome food, but also allowing myself what I felt I needed or wanted to eat.

If you are from the UK you probably know that ‘Clean Eating’ has been a hot topic this week thanks to the BBC Horizon documentary Clean Eating – The Dirty Truth. Unfortunately, being in Italy, I wasn’t able to watch it, but I have followed various discussions about it on social media. Most people seem to agree with the sentiments I included in my post from last week – the best approach to living a healthy life is to find balance, and any diet that encourages you to ban a food group, or uses terms such as ‘cheat foods’, is not good for your mental health (and possibly even your physical health) and is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term.

So this week I ate chocolate protein bars, had more bread and a pizza on Friday night, but I spent the majority of the time still making all of my meals and introducing different types of green vegetables, lean proteins, oats, nuts, seeds, etc. I felt I had more energy on the days I played tennis or trained, but I continued to feel less bloated than usual. The only thing that didn’t really work for my body was the pizza, and I woke up during the night feeling thirsty with an acidy stomach. Now, that’s not going to stop me eating pizza, but I think I will wait a while before I have another one. And to think I used to often eat more than one pizza a week! This process is all about listening to my body and finding out what makes me feel good (Find What Feels Good!), but that also fulfils the need I have to sometimes indulge without feeling guilty.

Next week I am going to London and then back home to visit my mum for a few days. This will be a good way to finish off Dry January as I usually drink (and eat) a lot more when I’m in England, so I know it will be more of a test than the past two weeks have been.

My Dry January Progress | Week 2

So it turns out I used to spend a lot more time thinking about drinking less alcohol than I do now about drinking more – who’d have thought?! Hence this was a surprisingly easy week in terms of my Dry January. Being at home every evening without chilled white wine in the fridge certainly helped, and the only fairly challenging day was Tuesday when I flew to Rome for a meeting. Usually I would enjoy a glass of Prosecco or Aperol Spritz in the lounge on the way home, but I managed to resist the urge and got myself a Crodino instead (not sure if this is only available in Italy but if not, I recommend it to anyone looking for a bitter non-alcoholic aperitif).

I suppose the ease with which I have been avoiding alcohol is the reason I decided to further test myself with my diet this week. Yes, I spent this week trying to eat ‘clean’ (though I really don’t like that expression as I wouldn’t say my diet was ‘dirty’ before – I would prefer to call it ‘wholesome’). So my wholesome diet focused on eating home-cooked food and home-made snacks – you can see the type of things I was eating here. This also wasn’t so difficult and I faced it in the same way as giving up alcohol – I had made the decision to make a change and I somehow clicked a switch in my mind to change my behaviour.

After eating more proteins, less sugar and refined carbs, only home-made snacks, and drinking lots of water and no alcohol this week, I ended up losing 1.5 kilos in weight and an inch around my waist. I am sure this was mainly water weight, as I tend to store a lot of water when I eat carbohydrates (and probably also when I drink alcohol), but it has made me feel so much better. I no longer finish the day looking 5 months pregnant so my body must like something about this diet!

However, whilst I will keep up the alcohol ban for the rest of the month, I think I will start to modify what I am eating as I didn’t feel I had enough energy during my tennis and HIIT sessions this week. I need to experiment to understand what I can eat to give myself enough energy, but that won’t leave me too bloated. I also don’t want to get too obsessive about what I’m eating as I did when using MyFitnessPal and I want this exploration to be more about what I can do with my body rather than what it looks like.

Ultimately I want to turn that on/off switch in my mind into a dimmer switch, where I can still allow myself the odd glass of wine, pizza or ice-cream when I feel like it, whilst still paying attention to the wholesomeness of what I eat and drink the majority of the time. It’s all about getting that balance right in my body, much like the Tree Pose (Vrksasana) I have been practising this week during my daily yoga with Adriene. So that’s my challenge for the next week – begin to find the right balance in my diet so that at the end of the month I can enjoy a glass of wine without drinking the whole bottle! Come back next week to find out how I get on.

My Dry January Progress | Week 1

One of my goals for 2017 is to drink less alcohol. For the past few months my partner and I have been enjoying a bottle of Prosecco or white wine between us almost every night and it has become a habit we are both keen to break. So I have decided to attempt Dry January, and possibly even February, March, April…but we’ll see about that once I get through January! I really hope that by sharing this experience on my blog it will help me stick to my goal.

The first day was very easy, given that I exaggerated on New Year’s Eve and my body felt so weak the next day. Whenever I have a few glasses too many my sleep is very disturbed, and in the morning my legs are tired and throb slightly and I have all the usual dehydration symptoms (despite always trying to drink lots of water with my wine). So on New Year’s Day my partner and I had some simple Portuguese comfort food (bacalhau mashed together with boiled potatoes and a side dish of broccoli) and lots and lots of water.

On the 2nd January we travelled to Porto in Portugal to visit my partner’s family, and this meant that already on the second day I found myself having to turn down the local wine his parents were keen for me to try. This was difficult as I didn’t want to offend them, and I almost gave in out of politeness, but I still did not feel like having any wine and so, with the support of my partner who made the sacrifice to drink for both of us (!), I managed to stick to sparkling water.

On day 4 my partner’s mum was again very keen for me to try the local Port wine. I was still not interested in drinking alcohol, as I was enjoying sleeping well and waking up feeling refreshed (even though I was waking up a bit earlier than usual needing to go to loo with all the water I was drinking!). But again, I felt awkward refusing to try the wine, and in the end I took a few sips to be courteous (and because I thought it might help with a sore throat that I was developing). Although this was strictly a failure of my Dry January, it didn’t feel like one, as I hadn’t actually given in to a craving to drink and I didn’t really enjoy it. In some ways it strengthened my desire to not drink alcohol and to not have to apologise or feel uncomfortable for not drinking.

On day 5 I started to develop a headache which I was not expecting as I typically only get them after drinking alcohol. Perhaps it was due to my body detoxing, or it could just have been my brain complaining after spending many days trying to understand Portuguese! That evening we went to a dinner party at a friend’s house. Again, I was tempted to drink so as not to have to explain why I was not drinking, but not because I actually felt like it. I realised that on many past social occasions I was probably drinking more out of habit than real desire. I was so pleased to end the evening with a clear head and a stronger mind.

This is only the first week, and I am sure it will get more difficult as I get further into January, but at the moment I feel I am developing more strength, mindfulness, and awareness. In order to better connect my body and mind during this month, I have also spent every day this week practising Yoga With Adriene (I am following her latest Revolution program – 31 days of Yoga), and I even started meditating thanks to the guidance given in one of Cat Meffan’s Yoganuary YouTube videos. I’m hoping that all of this will also have a positive impact on my tennis this year.

I’m on my way back home now, and back to work, so next week will test my ability to eliminate drinking from my everyday routine. Also, after a week in Portugal (the home of pastry!), I am looking forward to cleaning up my diet and so I will be following the 7-day plan I saw in one of Carly Rowena’s YouTube videos.

Please do come back next week to find out how I get on during my second week without alcohol (but instead with lots of yoga, meditation and a healthier diet). And if anyone reading this is also attempting Dry January, let me know how you are getting on in the comments below.