Working on Myself

Blog, Books, Writing / Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

I wouldn’t say that I’m a New Years resolution kind of guy, but I do find it to be a convenient way to quit or start something cold turkey. The new year tends to give me a boost with its defined beginning. I can plan and plan and plan, but if I don’t tell myself that January 1st is when the planning stops and the doing officially begins, I’d never finish planning.

In previous years I set some goals that I stuck with the best that I could. Two years ago, I devoted my year to blogging. If you’re a regular reader then you’ll remember how I would release a new post every week for the entire year (or damn well close to it). It was an exercise in mental endurance coupled with the need to have something to write about. It damn near wore me out.

Because I was so worn out after that year of blogging, last year I decided to spend the year being more internet reclusive. I wanted to explore my hobbies and do them for the fun and learning of it and in no way think about how it could generate content and fit into an editorial schedule. It was a good thing too as my professional life took a turn for the better and busier and I know I couldn’t have maintained a cadence of hobbies if they were additional work in the form of posting. The hobbies were just as a form of relaxation. It helped knowing I was learning along the way though.

But I’ve missed blogging. I’ve missed emptying my mind of the thoughts that get jammed in there on a daily basis. As you might remember from my birthday post a few months back, I wanted to return to this blog. I wanted to better document what I’ve been up to. It seems that coming back to a habit that you’ve broken is just as hard as starting a new resolution. I never gave myself a day to come back or allotted a time slot in the week to sit down at the computer and compose.

However, just because I haven’t been here doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on myself and my resolutions like I intended to do this whole time.

So what have I been up to? Improving myself. Puttering. Treating Ellie right. The usual. Let me break it down.

I’m 32. My body is starting to feel and show its age. It isn’t like a hip has gone out or my hair is completely gray. What is happening is that the fitness I used to prioritize has been bumped down the list for other activities. It makes me feel old and like it is the beginning of a snowball. If I don’t stop it now, it will get bigger and more out of control than I can handle.

So what have I been doing to stop this snowballin’ body? A few things:

  • Pushups, daily
  • Avoiding snacks at work
  • Limiting my dinner portions
  • Eating fewer desserts
  • Eating less ice cream
  • Reading more

With each of these things, I’m trying to build better habits and retrain my body.

Back when I was in the Peace Corps, I decided that I would follow a routine of pushups and situps every day for the whole year. For every month, I would increase the number of each by 10/day. Every day in January I would do 10/day. February would be 20/day. And so on. I’ve decided to take up that habit again but limiting myself to pushups only. I’ve had too many back problems over the years to try to do sit ups on a daily basis. So far, I haven’t missed a day and I’m feeling stronger than I have in a long time.

One of the perks of my office is that there are free snacks in the break room and we frequently celebrate nonsense holidays like “Oreo Cookie Day” and “Toast Day”. These sound great on the surface because they’re silly and guarantee there are snacks for the mid-afternoon hunger but I’ve noticed that I just mindlessly eat because I can, not because I am hungry. Every day I am at the office and I do not eat any of the food there except what I bring for myself is a win.

Building off of that, I have noticed over the years that I eat large dinners. I’ll go back for several large plates of food because I really like eating. Pasta and tacos are my weak point. I can consume and consume and I just do not need to eat all of that food. I’ve decided to do my best to limit myself to one plate of food for dinner. Sure, I’ve noticed myself taking slightly larger portions on that single plate, but it’s still better than taking two large portions. I’m not the best at following through on this one, but it has been a work in progress and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction. The goal is to retrain my stomach to want less for dinner, no matter how good it is. It also is teaching me how to better prepare portions for dinner that set me up for success.

The same thing goes for dessert and ice cream. I eat a lot of them but not because I am hungry but because the habit exists and I need to feed that false hunger. Again, these aren’t easy because I really, really love ice cream and other snacky foods. I’m working to get better at it. I think the trick is to just have less options in the house. Or if I have to have something around, make it simple and light. Just enough to calm the urge to have a big, sugar filled snack before bed.

And the last one ties into the others in a way. I want to read more. The problem is, though, that I fall asleep easily when I try to read these days. I’m like a stereotypical 60-year-old dad. Passed out in an easy chair with a book on my chest. But how does reading work into fitness and eating habits? Well, for the better part of the past decade I have been spending my work lunches walking. I bring a sandwich to eat on the walk and I now head out for about 4 miles every day. I used to just walk. Then I got into podcasts because I was getting board. Now, since I’ve been having trouble finding podcasts to fill all the walking time a week, I’ve decided to switch to audio books. Ellie helpfully pointed out that the local library has hundreds of audio books for free rental from the convenience of my phone. I’m a month into the switch to books and I think I’ve listened to about 8 so far (7 of which were pretty short). I can keep up with my desire to read without it becoming nap time.

All in all, I’m happy with the progress that I’ve made so far. I know I could be better about some of the goals but I’m not going to put myself down over it. Progress is still progress, even if it looks different than intended.

What are you trying to be better at in your life?

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